Washington (CNN) - In an interview after his presidential announcement Tuesday, former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman tried to downplay a letter he wrote to President Barack Obama in August 2009 calling him a "remarkable leader."
Huntsman told Fox News that he was only alluding to the fact that the president would appoint a Republican to "a position as important and sensitive as the U.S. ambassadorship to China."
"You are a remarkable leader," Huntsman wrote in the note, which was leaked to reporters earlier this year. He underlined the word "remarkable."
Asked if he was referring to the president's policies with those kind words, Huntsman claimed that he wrote the letter "early in his administration."
"There was nothing to comment on at that point," Huntsman said.
Tea Party activists, who emerged in the early days of the Obama administration, might disagree.
By August 2009, the White House had passed or proposed any number of bills that faced fierce backlash from grassroots conservatives, including the stimulus package, home mortgage reform, the auto bailout and landmark health care legislation.
Looking back on the Obama record today, though, Huntsman said the president has "failed."
"I think he has failed in a number of ways, both in terms of economic governance and stewardship, and also internationally," he said.