Former Republican Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said last week that Barack Obama had "failed" as president.

But Obama's chief campaign strategist says that Huntsman sang the president's praises in private while serving as the ambassador to China.

"It was a little surprising to me because when we were in Shanghai we got a chance to talk," David Axelrod told CNN's Candy Crowley Sunday. "And he was very effusive, this was in the fall of 2009, about what the president was doing. He was encouraging on health care, he was encouraging on a whole range of issues. He was a little quizzical about what he was going on in his own party. And you got the strong sense that he was going to wait until 2016 for the storm to blow over."

"I understand that's politics. He's a politician. And he sees an opportunity. But it is -- it's a stark contrast to what he said when he wasn't on your program."

Watch this video from CNN's State of the Union, uploaded June 19, 2011.

Watch this video on iPhone/iPad