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Posted at 12:21 PM ET, 01/27/2011

Jon Huntsman's Inner Circle

By Chris Cillizza

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is seriously considering a run for president in 2012.

U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (R) appears to be leaning toward a run for president in 2012 and a team of political operatives and fundraisers have begun informal talks and outreach to ensure he could rapidly ramp up if he decides to run.

Talk of a Huntsman presidential bid has been all the rage of late -- ever since a Newsweek article earlier this month made clear he was seriously considering the possibility.

During Chinese President Hu Jintao's official state visit last week, President Obama was even asked by reporters about the prospect of Huntsman, a former Utah governor, challenging him in 2012.

"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," said Obama. "And I'm sure that him having worked so well for me will be a great asset in any Republican primary."

Huntsman, for his part, has been mum about the possibility of a national bid but the breadth of the team that has formed to prepare for just such an eventuality suggests he is quite serious.

Below is Huntsman's inner circle of advisers -- a group that speaks regularly about the when, where and how of a presidential bid. (Make sure to check out inner circles of the other potential presidential candidates too -- particularly our first inner circle for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign as there are a number of similarities between the two.)

The Huntsman Inner Circle

* John Weaver: Weaver has been at the presidential game for quite some time now. He was one of Arizona Sen. John McCain's senior advisers during the 2000 primary fight and was the chief strategist in the early days of McCain's second bid for president in 2008. (Weaver left the campaign in a staff shuffle in the summer of 2007.)

* Fred Davis/Brian Nick: Davis is one of the leading Republican media consultants in the country, having produced the ads for McCain's general election race against President Obama in 2008 and handled a wide variety of clients in the 2010 cycle including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. Nick is Davis' right hand man at the firm.

* Tom Loeffler: Loeffler, a former Republican congressman from Texas, is a major GOP fundraiser these days. Loeffler was the national finance chairman for McCain's 2008 presidential bid and national finance co-chairman for then Texas Gov. George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.

* Scott Anderson: Anderson is the chairman and CEO of Zions Bank in Salt Lake City and a major player in Beehive State politics.

* Richard Quinn: Quinn is one of a handful of longtime political operatives in the crucial early primary state of South Carolina. Like many of the others in the Huntsman inner circle, Quinn has long ties to McCain -- having worked for him in South Carolina in 2000 and 2008.

* Peter Spaulding: Spaulding, a former member of the New Hampshire Executive Council, was McCain's New Hampshire chairman in 2000 and 2008.

* Neil Ashdown: Ashdown served as chief of staff to Huntsman as governor and now serves in the same role in China.

* Susan Wiles: Wiles is a longtime Florida operative who most recently served as campaign manager for Gov. Rick Scott's (R) successful campaign in the Sunshine State. Wiles has worked closely with former Gov. Jeb Bush on education issues and served as chief of staff to two mayors of Jacksonville.

* Bill Stern: Stern is a moneyman in South Carolina who served as finance chairman for McCain's presidential bids as well as former Gov. Mark Sanford.

By Chris Cillizza  | January 27, 2011; 12:21 PM ET
Categories:  Inner Circle  
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