The sliver of humanity who care about such things are currently fascinated by the resignation of US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, apparently to pursue a campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination.
The conversation has mostly centered around the question of why in God's name Huntsman would run, when his relatively moderate positions, combined with his late start and other factors, would seem to make his quest rather quixotic. (My brother's been in the middle of the debate over whether it makes sense as groundwork for 2016.)
I just want to add an observation to the discussion: John Weaver.
Weaver -- part of a group I dubbed the Yobgoblins, for reasons we don't need to get into here -- is a key advisor to Huntsman, and has been the key driver of the Huntsman '12 pot-stirring campaign.
One of the worst political advisors in America, Weaver makes his bones by promising relatively moderate pols that he can make them a big hit among the national conservative base, thanks to his amazing contacts and manipulative powers over FOX News and talk radio hosts.
In 2007 he drove McCain's campaign into the ground, and into financial ruin, with this promise, before McCain dumped him and started fresh.
Last year Weaver destroyed the Tim Cahill campaign on the promise of Scott Brown-style conservative superstardom.
A well-connected Republican operative who knows Weaver tells me that Weaver's been making the exact same promises to Huntsman. Weaver and his allies are also making a lot of calls to gauge support among Republican operatives and fundraisers, and I would imagine that Weaver is feeding Huntsman somewhat exaggerated claims of vast encouragement from those folks.
Meanwhile, I've got a pretty good feeling that all these recent stories quoting unnamed Huntsman advisors saying that Huntsman is planning to run, are all coming from Weaver and his pals. I think they've been trying to force the issue, by getting enough of the rumor circulating that it would become untenable for the White House to maintain Huntsman in his position -- I mean, I can't imagine Chinese leaders felt like very comfortable dealing with a guy rumored to be planning to run against the President. And I think it worked.
That's my theory, anyway: Weaver, looking for a paying 2012 campaign client, played Huntsman into a position where he had to leave China and now has to run or else look incredibly foolish.
It's also worth noting that Weaver is close to certain anti-Romney Michiganders (notably the "Yob" in Yobgoblins) who would presumably be thrilled to see Huntsman jump into the race.
Aside from conventional ways that Huntsman would potentially pull from Romney's support, consider three Mormon-specific things. First, Romney is presumed to have a big edge in the early-caucus state of Nevada, where the Republican Party is heavily Mormon. That advantage, and early victory, could go away. Second, a lot of Romney's funding in the '08 cycle came from wealthy Mormon businessmen; probably a lot of them would stick with Romney, but a lot of them might switch to Huntsman.
And finally, Romney really got away with talking very selectively about his religion last time around. The media, fearful of being tagged as bigots, really didn't press him on specifics of what he believes and what practices he follows. Romney was able to go around telling evangelical audiences that their religions were extremely similar, and emphasize the shared belief in salvation through Jesus Christ while treating other queries as intrusive and inappropriate.
Well, that approach doesn't fly if Huntsman is out there on the trail talking openly and honestly about his faith and practices. I don't know if he would, or what he would be saying, but it could open very easily open up a can of worms that Romney has worked very hard to keep contained.