Huntsman Ends White House Bid, Backs Romney

Huntsman Ends White House Bid, Backs Romney

By Scott Conroy - January 16, 2012

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Jon Huntsman dropped out of the Republican presidential race here on Monday and threw his support behind Mitt Romney.

Huntsman made the announcement at the site of Monday night’s Fox News-sponsored GOP debate, joined by members of his family and senior campaign aides.

“Today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency,” Huntsman said. “I believe it is now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. Despite our differences and the space between us on some of the issues, I believe that candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney.”

Huntsman and Romney spoke by phone late Sunday night, a Huntsman campaign aide told RCP, after the New York Times broke the news that the former Utah governor was ending his campaign.

The two former governors discussed the state of the GOP race and how Huntsman might best help the front-runner’s effort. The extent to which the Romney campaign is interested in Huntsman stumping on the candidate’s behalf is unclear, though Romney issued a statement Monday saluting Huntsman for running “a spirited campaign based on unity not division, and love of country. I appreciate his friendship and support.” 

During his announcement, Huntsman decried the state of the Republican race, which he said had “degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people.”

“Today I call on each campaign to cease attacking each other and instead talk directly to the American people about how our conservative ideas will create jobs, reduce our nation’s debt, stabilize energy prices, and provide a better future for our children and our grandchildren,” he said.

Huntsman thanked supporters and members of his family and said that his six months on the campaign trail had been “an incredible and awe-inspiring journey.”

Before dropping out of the race, Huntsman had vowed to continue his long-shot candidacy after a third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary last week and had spent the last couple of days campaigning in South Carolina, including at a retail stop in Charleston on Sunday.

But after lagging in the polls and having no conceivable path to the nomination, the former Utah governor -- who had run as a moderate pragmatist in a GOP environment that apparently doesn't yearn for one -- made the final determination to bow out.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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