This is exactly correct as far as I can tell. I've lived in Utah for pretty much my entire life, and we lost the best governor we were going to get for the foreseeable future when we lost Huntsman to the ambassadorship. He’s smart, charismatic, and reasonable. He is a basically decent person who is actually interested in governing and who will work with his opposition in good faith. That's more than you can say for the vast majority of Republicans these days, including the other Mormon Republican contender for the White House, Mitt Romney.I lived in Utah when Huntsman was Governor. Based on watching him govern as a moderate and – through vetos, or by simply sitting on the lunatics in his own party with his own 81% approval rating – stopping some of the worst crazy stuff that was being floated up through the Legislature, he’s the one person in the Republican party that I could even conceive of voting for for President.As one example—in February 2009, while still Governor of the reddest, most batshit insane state in our nation, he came out in support of a proposal for civil unions for same-sex couples, despite 70% of the voters in Utah opposing civil unions (hmmm … 70% of the Utah population is Mormon … must be a coincidence). I worked in the environmental field, and although he wasn’t great on environmental protection, he wasn’t screaming about Federalism and Utah’s right to take over federal lands and claim thousands of miles of “highways” across national parks and national monuments in the same way that his predecessors and successor have.All of which is to say that he has the snowball’s chance in Hell of prevailing in Republican primaries, including for reasons other folks have mentioned—the base will hate his Mormonism, and his ability to think about governance and care less about ideology will confuse them so much they won’t be able to understand him.
Even if he does plan to run at some point, Huntsman is far too smart to run in 2012. The tea partiers and the evangelical Christians will not vote for him in the Republican primary, but since he’s only 50 years old, he could easily wait until 2016 or even 2020. Hopefully, the current mob of Republican crazies will have imploded by then. If he were nominated, I really think he’d be a strong candidate in the general election, and I could totally live with that.