* Website doesn't mention Huntsman by name
* Group hires veteran political operatives
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to China Jon
Huntsman's chances of running for the Republican presidential
nomination appeared to increase Tuesday when his
campaign-in-waiting launched a fund-raising effort.
Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, is to leave Beijing at
the end of April and decide whether he will seek the Republican
presidential nomination for the right to battle President
Barack Obama in 2012.
A political action committee called Horizon PAC, which is
officially unconnected to Huntsman but is essentially his
campaign-in-waiting, launched a new website seeking donations.
"Maybe someday we'll find a new generation of conservative
leaders," the website (http://www.horizon-pac.com/ ) declares.
"What happened to actual, lasting solutions to problems?"
The group has hired several veteran political operatives
led by John Weaver, who was a key adviser to Republican John
McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.
The campaign-in-waiting has also added Al Shofe as
congressional liaison and Craig Engle as legal counsel.
"Given the challenges that face the country and need
serious, long-lasting solutions, H-PAC will back the candidates
who will have the honor and the decency to make the tough
choices that are in the best interest of our nation's future,"
a spokesman for the Horizon group said.
Huntsman raised eyebrows at the White House by declaring
his intention to resign as Obama's point person in China and
possibly seek to unseat him.
Like Mitt Romney, who is expected to seek the Republican
nomination, Huntsman has roots in Utah and is a Mormon, or
member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
His moderate positions on some issues could make it
difficult for him to win over conservatives who play a giant
role in the nominating process.
But Huntsman could possibly do well in an early voting
state like New Hampshire if he could appeal to moderate
Republicans and independents there.
A large field of Republicans are expected to seek the
party's presidential nomination, with announcements expected in
the coming months and weeks.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
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