Jon Huntsman, it seems, knows how to make an entrance. He has timed his resignation as U.S. ambassador to China to coincide with the biggest social event on Washington D.C.’s political-media-entertainment calender, Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. For the first time since August of 2009, he will be freed from Hatch Act rules that restricted his ability to campaign or take political positions. It just so happens that at that very moment, he will be surrounded by about 2,700 journalists, donors and politicos dressed in tuxedos and ball gowns.
Huntsman is scheduled to arrive back in D.C. on Friday, and he’ll be attending the event as a guest of Bloomberg (the wire service, not the mayor of New York). Next week, he has scheduled meetings with senior aides to take stock of his campaign in waiting, a long overdue event. For the most part, he has been unable to communicate with his own political staff in recent months. He doesn’t know exactly what they have planned for him, and they don’t know exactly how committed he is to a presidential race. His schedule after those meetings is still undetermined, though Huntsman has committed to a couple of commencement addresses in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Unless Huntsman pulls the plug, his campaign is likely to become more visible over the next few months. With a strategy that runs directly through New Hampshire, he will be under heavy pressure to make an official decision on the race before June 13, when St. Anselm College, CNN and WMUR host the first Republican primary debate in that state.
(Disclosure: I am a member of the board of the White House Correspondents’ Association.)