This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Jon Huntsman Jr. was one of the first people to endorse Sen. John McCain's presidential bid and raised a lot of money to help him get there. But McCain isn't ready yet to back a Huntsman presidential campaign should the former Utah governor jump in.
McCain says Huntsman is a "fine man," but he's not sure whether Huntsman will run for president.
Interestingly, many of McCain's former top-level staffers on his White House campaign are now the ones readying an organization should Huntsman run for president.
John Weaver was McCain's top strategist and now fills that role for the Horizon political action committee, a group organizing a campaign for Huntsman should he return from serving in Beijing as U.S. ambassador to China and decide to run. The PAC also includes McCain's inner circle of Florida strategist Susan Wiles, advertising guru Fred Davis, and New Hampshire adviser Peter Spaulding.
Given the PAC's McCain flavor, I figured it would be worth asking McCain what he thought of Huntsman, who spent plenty of time on the road in 2008 stumping for the Arizona senator.
"He's a fine man. A dear friend. A nice guy," McCain said off the Senate floor Tuesday. "He was the very successful governor of a very conservative state."
But, I pressed, is Huntsman too moderate or even liberal for the Republican Party as some have charged because of Huntsman's backing of civil unions and position on climate change.
"Honestly, I was not involved that much in the issues and so I'm not sure," McCain said. "But I do know he was an extremely popular governor of a conservative state."
Would he make a good presidential candidate, I asked.
"If he chooses to run," McCain said. "I don't know if he's going to run or not."
Thomas Burr Twitter.com/thomaswburr