Jon Huntsman ends U.S. presidential campaign, endorses Mitt Romney

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. ended his Republican Party presidential campaign Monday, and announced his support for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Huntsman cited Romney as the best candidate to defeat President Barack Obama in the general election, and noted that the primary has become too negative.

Huntsman campaigns in September 2011.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

This comes a week after Huntsman's third place finish in the New Hampshire primary, after which he announced he had a "ticket to ride" to South Carolina for that state's January 21 primary. Huntsman has remained low in recent South Carolina polls; however, Sunday he won the endorsement of South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State.

Reportedly, Huntsman's withdrawal was the result of a decreasing supply of campaign funds, spent largely in New Hampshire. Insiders say Huntsman believed his candidacy was drawing votes away from Romney.

In his address, Huntsman argued, "As candidates for our party's nomination, our common goal is to restore bold and principled leadership to the White House...Yet rather than seeking to advance that common goal by speaking directly to voters about our ideas...this race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people." He called for the Republican candidates "to cease attacking each other and instead talk directly to the American people."

Huntsman was viewed as the moderate in the race, owing in part to his service in the Obama administration as the U.S. Ambassador to China. During his campaign, he used the slogan "Country First" and advocated unity, tax reform, and the removal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

The withdrawal reduces the candidate field to five in South Carolina, with Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ron Paul, Texas governor Rick Perry, and former Senator Rick Santorum still in the race. Romney is considered the frontrunner after victories in the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary.

There is speculation that Huntsman will run for president again in 2016, if Obama is re-elected.