Huntsman suspends presidential campaign, backs Mitt Romney

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman formally dropped out of the presidential race on Monday.

"Today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency," Huntsman said during a press conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Huntsman also endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination. Huntsman noted that although there was "space" between himself and his former rival, Romney was the GOP’s best bet to unseat President Obama.

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"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."

While Romney did not appear at the press conference, Huntsman will tape a robocall ad for him, according to Huntsman aides.

Huntsman's backing of Romney came as somewhat of a surprise, as his campaign had focused most of their attacks on him.

Flanked by his wife, Mary Kaye Huntsman, and his daughter, Mary Anne Huntsman, and sharing the stage with some high-profile South Carolinians who endorsed Huntsman, the former Utah governor began his speech with a call for the Republican presidential field to stop attacking one another. He said the country's political discourse had become too toxic.


"At its core, the Republican Party is a party of ideas. But the current toxic form of our political discourse does not help our cause," Huntsman said. "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 brighter future for our children and grandchildren."

Huntsman also took a shot at Obama, whom he formerly served as ambassador to China.

"Three years ago, the president promised to unite the American people, yet his desire to engage in class warfare for political gain has left us more divided than ever," Huntsman continued. "This divisiveness is corrosive and does not advance our nation's interest."

Huntsman's announcement Monday concluded a six-month long campaign that began with a great deal of media attention. Aides said the decision was the culmination of weeklong discussions with top advisers and Huntsman's family. Some of his advisers reportedly urged him to stay in the race. 

If he had, it would have been a steep uphill battle. Huntsman failed to gain traction in the polls and lagged in fundraising, and had retooled his campaign strategy around obtaining a strong showing in New Hampshire.

After placing third in the Granite State's primary despite a near singular focus on campaigning there, Huntsman decided to advance his campaign in South Carolina. He was endorsed by both Romney's hometown newspaper, the Boston Globe, and South Carolina's most prominent newspaper, The State.

Polling in South Carolina roughly a week out from the primary, though, showed Huntsman in single digits. A recent InsiderAdvantage poll released late Sunday, just before the campaign said he was dropping out, found him with 6 percent support in the Palmetto State.

Part of Huntsman's campaign problems appeared to stem from both his refusal to be more aggressive with his opponents in debates or on the campaign trail and his similarities to Romney, both of whom are seen as centrist Republican former governors. They are also both Mormon.

Huntsman's woes also extended to fundraising. He never benefited from a surge in the polls as many of his rivals did, allowing them to bring in more donations. Despite being the son of the wealthy head of the Huntsman Corp., a large chemical company, Huntsman at times had to fundraise just to air ads in New Hampshire and then South Carolina.


—This story has been updated.

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