I think the campaign definitely helped. He will be in a stronger position to run again for president, take a cabinet post, another ambassadorship, or even run for the U.S. Senate, having been through the grind of the nomination fight.
Huntsman didn’t embarrass himself. He became a favorite of the national media. He didn’t harshly criticize his opponents and, thus, didn’t make permanent enemies. He build important name ID with voters, and especially opinion leaders across the country. His prospects are brighter today than if he had continued as ambassador to China for several months longer.
As we’ve seen many times, it often takes more than one attempt to win the presidency. People close to both of Mitt Romney’s campaigns say he is a far superior candidate this time around and his campaign machine is 10 times better than it was in 2008.
Huntsman started too late to mount a credible campaign. Romney has been running for three years. Huntsman, no doubt, learned important lessons from his foray into presidential politics and he’s now better positioned for 2016 or other opportunities that might come his way.
The other thing that could cut Huntsman’s way is if gridlock and stalemate continues in Washington and voters begin to look for a more centrist, pragmatic leader who wants to bring people together to solve problems instead of fight ideological battles.