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Washington • President Barack Obama has offered kind words about the service of U.S. ambassador to China and potential presidential opponent Jon Huntsman Jr. and it appears Huntsman has showered Obama with praise in return.
"You are a remarkable leader," Huntsman wrote to Obama in an Aug. 16, 2009, note, underlining the word "remarkable," according to Washington-based The Daily Caller. "And it has been a great honor getting to know you."
Huntsman, a former Utah governor who is leaving his post in Beijing at month's end, is considering a White House bid, but his service in the Obama administration could come back to haunt him with Republican primary voters.
In the same note quoted in The Daily Caller, Huntsman thanked Obama for "the graciousness and kindness you have shown me and my family particularly your confidence in my ability to represent you in China."
In another letter, the news outlet says Huntsman wrote to former President Bill Clinton, lauding him and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"I have enormous regard for your experience, sense of history and brilliant analysis of world events," Huntsman told the former president. "Please save some time for me when I'm next in New York."
"I must report that Sec. Clinton has won the hearts and minds of the State Dept. bureaucracy no easy task," Huntsman continued in the letter. "And after watching her in action, I can see why. She is well-read, hard working, personable and has even more charisma than her husband! It's an honor to work with her."
The Daily Caller did not disclose who provided the letters.
A strategist associated with Huntsman's potential campaign noted the leak of the letters shows the Obama team's cards.
"Need further proof the White House fears Jon Huntsman the most? I don't think so," the strategist said on condition of anonymity because there is no formal campaign yet.
Obama, in a sort of backhanded slap against a potential challenge by Huntsman, has repeatedly noted Huntsman's service to the administration and joked that having worked with him so well would help Huntsman in a GOP primary.
Who leaked the letters? It's a 'juicy whodunit'
The Wall Street Journal on Friday poked into how the Huntsman letters heaping praise on Democrats came to be published by The Daily Caller, which said the correspondence was provided on condition of anonymity.
The Journal checked in with Gov. Gary Herbert (a Mitt Romney supporter in the past presidential election); the White House and Democratic National Committee; and the Huntsman camp, speculating that the leak could be an act of political inoculation.
Herbert and Huntsman spokesmen denied being the source. The White House and DNC didn't comment. Finding no smoking gun, The Journal described the mystery as a "juicy whodunit."