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President Donald Trump is considering Michigan businessman John James, who lost a November election to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, to replace United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, according to two people familiar with the matter.

James, a Republican from Farmington Hills, tried to unseat Stabenow, a Lansing Democrat, in a traditional Democratic presidential state that helped Trump win the presidency in 2016. He lost to the incumbent senator 46 to 52 percent, making it a closer race than polls initially suggested.

The Trump administration is considering putting a person without ambassador's experience into the job, a source said. James has never been an ambassador, but a source said a person with ambassador's experience would likely be his deputy if he is chosen.

A White House spokesman said Monday he had “no personnel announcements at this time.” A call to James' office was not returned. 

James visited the White House last week to discuss an administration job with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, unidentified sources told Bloomberg News, which first reported James' candidacy for the UN ambassadorship.

James, 37, joins other candidates Trump is considering to replace Haley, the former South Carolina governor who said in October she would resign by the end of the year. The others Trump has considered for the United Nations job include the U.S. ambassadors to France, Germany and Canada.

If chosen and confirmed by the Senate, James "would be a major player on the national and international stage," giving Michigan a "high-ranking national leader in world affairs," said David Dulio, who leads the political science department at Oakland University.

It would also put Stabenow in the position of voting on her former opponent.

James is an Iraq War veteran who flew Apache helicopters and is president of the James Group International, a supply-chain management firm based in Detroit. Trump himself called James "a rising star," a description that the businessman politely dismissed on the campaign trail.

Trump never visited Michigan to campaign for James, although he said he wanted to. But the president promoted James' candidacy on Twitter and sent Vice President Mike Pence to the state three times to do fundraising and campaigning.

Trump also invited James to the White House in mid-September and accompanied him on a trip to a U.S. Senate fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

James' better-than-expected election performance against Stabenow has Republican officials saying he has a bright political future. He won the most votes of any Republican top-of-the-ticket candidate in the past decade, even getting more votes than Rick Snyder won in his 2010 gubernatorial landslide victory.

If he is not tapped for the UN job, GOP experts have said James should consider another run for U.S. Senate in 2020 against Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, a run for Congress against incoming freshman Democrat Haley Stevens or even a run for governor in eight years.

But the UN ambassadorship nomination would cut his opportunity to build a "Michigan resume" and deny Republicans a potent challenger for Senate or U.S. House in 2020, Dulio said.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

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