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When it comes to Sen. Mike Lee, one considers him "brilliant," the other called him an "embarrassment." One said that Lee will easily get re-elected, the other predicted a major 2016 primary fight.

The tea-party senator is a polarizing figure in the Republican Party and now he has split the Huntsman family.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman lavished praise on Lee, his former general counsel, during an appearance on Matt K. Lewis' podcast Tuesday, a little more than three weeks after his father, billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr. slammed the senator.

"Mike has every good intention and I say that because I worked with Mike," Huntsman told Lewis, a conservative commentator in the Washington, D.C., area. "In fact, I don't know too many people in the legislative branch who are as brilliant as Mike Lee. His understanding of the Constitution, his ability to legislate."

Huntsman did agree with his father that Lee erred by advocating a plan to cut funding from Obamacare that led to a government shutdown in 2013 and, more recently, for demanding a vote against President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration, allowing Democrats to approve a slate of nominees that Republicans opposed.

"I say he's well intentioned," the former governor and former 2012 presidential candidate said. "I think on the execution side maybe he has made a few mistakes that he would probably do over again if he had a chance to. But in terms of the basic raw material for getting things done and articulating a conservative message, Mike is a pretty impressive guy, I have to tell you."

Lee is far more conservative than Huntsman and the two have not appeared to be close in recent years. But in the interview, Huntsman said his affinity for the senator is based on their past working relationship.

"I say that, again, having worked with him, and to some it may sound strange, having mentored him a bit, and I'm fond of Mike," he said.

Huntsman acknowledged that his father doesn't share his opinion, in part because he's still upset that the government shutdown paused funding for the cancer institute in Salt Lake City that bears the family name.

In an interview with Politico last month, Huntsman Sr. didn't hold back.

"All I can say is Mike Lee is an embarrassment to the state of Utah. He's been a tremendous embarrassment to our family, to our state, to our country to have him as a U.S. Senator."

Huntsman Sr. said that Lee has tried repeatedly to meet with him and he declined.

"I have no interest whatsoever in chatting with him," he said.

In that interview, Huntsman Sr. said he expected that some Republicans would challenge Lee for the seat and hinted that he may help them in that endeavor. Lee's poll numbers crashed during the shutdown, falling to 40 percent.

His numbers have since rebounded to 52 percent in a Brigham Young University poll from last November.

Huntsman told Lewis about the rebound and used it as evidence that Lee has gained strength in the state.

"The numbers have come up and unless there is any viable opposition that emerges, which is unlikely, I think Mike will be reelected if he chooses to do that," he said. "I suspect he'll be pretty strong."

Former Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright and Josh Romney, the son of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, are often mentioned as potential challengers to Lee, though they have not yet taken any formal steps to run. On the Democratic side, former Rep. Jim Matheson has said he'd consider a bid for senator or governor in 2016.

Lee has recently tried to strengthen his position in the state, shifting his former chief of staff, Boyd Matheson, back to Utah to run his political operation. Lee then hired Neil Ashdown, Huntsman's former chief of staff, to run his Washington, D.C., office.

The senator didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. In December, he declined to comment on Huntsman Sr.'s barbs, but Matheson, his aide, did say: "Senator Lee believes Utahns regularly demonstrate that they can talk about their political differences respectfully and can disagree without making it personal."

This isn't the first time that the two most prominent members of the Huntsman clan have disagreed politically. Huntsman Sr. backed Mitt Romney in 2008 when his son, then governor, supported eventual nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain.