Envoy set to take on former boss Obama

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Republican Jon Huntsman was sent to China as ambassador nearly two years ago. At the times he praised his new boss, President Barack Obama, as "a remarkable leader". Now he is expected to launch a campaign to boot him from the White House.

Mr Huntsman, a popular former Utah governor with a gold-plated resumé, has returned to the United States after resigning his post in Beijing to consider a run for the 2012 Republican nomination.

He already has a campaign staff-in-waiting – a committee packed with veteran Republicans – and trips scheduled to the early voting states of South Carolina and New Hampshire.

But Mr Huntsman's low national profile, moderate record on some social issues and time spent as Mr Obama's man in Beijing raise doubts about his ability to win over the conservative activists who dominate the Republican nominating process.

"Working for the Obama administration is going to be an albatross around Huntsman's neck, it's going to be brought up time and time again. That issue is a walking piñata," the Republican consultant Ron Bonjean said.

Mr Huntsman's supporters say widespread voter dissatisfaction with the still-forming Republican field and a burning desire to find the challenger best suited to beating Mr Obama in the election will propel a Huntsman White House bid.