Jon Huntsman got another dose of White House love at the correspondents dinner this weekend when the president referred to him as, “my buddy, Jon.” While it’s always nice to have friends, that’s probably one friendship the ambassador could do without, particularly since he has now formed his own exploratory committee for a run to take his old boss’s job.

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman took his first step toward a presidential run Tuesday, creating a federal political action committee that will allow him to travel and raise money in the weeks before he’s expected to formally announce a bid.

Moving swiftly since his return to Washington from Beijing Friday, Huntsman filed paperwork with the Federal Election Committee to begin “H PAC.” In the event he runs, the organization will be the last placeholder before he announces a full-blown campaign.

File this one away as yet another of the worst kept secrets in DC. Of course, as we’ve already seen with other expected candidates like Haley Barbour, setting up your PAC and exploratory committee doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to announce. Huntsman still has several very steep hills to climb.

First of all, his name recognition is still essentially zilch outside of political wonk circles. In the recent “dark horse poll” we referenced here previously, even if you take out all of the front runners, Huntsman still only rings up 3% support. The vast majority of the country still hasn’t even heard of him.

Further, if the responses of the Hot Air community in various polls here are anything to judge by, the base is looking for a confrontational warrior who is ready to take Obama on in an aggressive fashion. Taking a job working for the guy these past couple years doesn’t precisely lend itself to that kind of image coming out of the gate.

But yet again, it’s important to remember that we’re still very early in the process. If Huntsman can raise some serious cash, build a national team and start introducing himself to the general public, who knows? He seems to be a fairly charismatic figure with solid resume, but we’ll have to hear a lot more from him before he’ll have a chance at making the sale.