The presidential campaign of Jon Huntsman, which began with much promise, including an announcement in front of the Statue of Liberty, came to an end on Monday.
Prior to saying he was suspending his campaign Huntsman, chastised his fellow Republicans, ”This race has degenerated into an onslaught of personal attacks and negative campaigning not worthy of the American people,” Huntsman said.
The former Utah governor then called on his former competitors to remove the “toxic form” from campaigns and to “cease attacking each other and speak to the American people with bold ideas.”
Before a packed press gathering at the Sheraton Hotel, which has hosted this weekend’s GOP experience and will host tonight’s debate, Huntsman blasted his former boss, Barack Obama, for engaging in class warfare, calling such tactics “corrosive.”
Huntsman then endorsed Mitt Romney, whom he had labeled last week as unelectable.
Ambassador to China for Obama, Huntsman staked much of his candidacy on his performance in the New Hampshire primary. After finishing a distant third behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul on Jan. 10, his departure seemed inevitable.
Despite assembling a team that included former Attorney General Henry McMaster and several members of former Gov. Carroll Campbell’s family, Huntsman was never able to get much above two or three percent with voters in South Carolina.
Huntsman was dogged by his perceived ties to the Obama Administration, where he served for two years. With Romney having staked an early claim to center-right voters, there seemed to be little room for Huntsman, particularly among activist conservative voters in the early voting states. Being a Mormon did not help Huntsman either, given the amount of evangelical Christians in South Carolina and Iowa and the fact that one Mormon in the race—Romney—was more well-known. Ultimately, however, Huntsman was defined to many voters by his links to Obama.
Huntsman spent much of his campaign targeting Romney, as they were appealing to many of the same voters. The fact that he eventually endorsed him came as a surprise to some. But Huntsman’s former state chair Mike Campbell chalked it up to politics.
Campbell also said that he thought Huntsman would serve in a Romney Administration if he were asked but said he that he was not aware of any such talks taking place.
“If Gov. Huntsman chose to run for president again, I would support him again,” Campbell said, alluding to a possible run in 2016. “There has never been a candidate more qualified than Jon Huntsman.”
Campbell echoed Huntsman's critique of the tenor of the race. "We're going to have a tough time beating Obama with a candidate that is unscathed," he said. "Damaging the nominee even further doesn't help."
Huntsman’s endorsement of Romney would appear to be the latest step in the former Massachusetts Gov.'s march toward the nomination, as he has steadily received the backing of party leaders at the local and national level.
Among Republican voters, Romney, would appear to gain little from a Huntsman endorsement. But should Romney win the nomination and move to the general election, Huntsman could play a key role in appealing to independent and moderate voters, many of whom are unhappy with Obama.
One of Romney’s chief backers in South Carolina, State Treasurer Curtis Loftis said, “Jon Huntsman is a good and honorable man and we’re glad to have his support.”
“Every day we get closer to election day, people are realizing Mitt Romney is the best choice to send Barack Obama back to Chicago,” Loftis added.