White House officials tell ABC News that the Obama administration expects the US Ambassador to China, former GOP Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, to step down from his post in the coming months to explore a possible 2012 run for president.
Huntsman did not respond to a request for comment. News of the White House's expectations of Huntsman's departure was first reported by Politico.
President Obama was asked about rumors of Huntsman's departure earlier this month at a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, where Huntsman sat front row, center.
“I couldn’t be happier with the ambassador’s service, and I’m sure he will be very successful in whatever endeavors he chooses in the future,” the president said.
With a mischievious smile, the president added: "“And I’m sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary.”
At the Gridiron dinner Saturday night, White House Chief of Staff William Daley joked that President Obama "has no hard feelings," a White House source noted. "He just did an interview with the Tea Party Express about how integral he has been to the success of the Obama administration.”