Officials, however, are pointing to Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, Obama’s ambassador to China and Republican presidential candidate, and the State Department’s current No. 2, William Burns.

Huntsman is still widely respected by the administration even if he’d hoped to unseat Obama. Choosing Huntsman would allow the president to claim bipartisanship while putting an Asia expert in the job at a time when the U.S. is focusing more attention on the world’s most populous continent.