Jon Huntsman drops out of GOP presidential race

The Takeaway

Less than a week after Jon Huntsman declared his third place finish in New Hampshire a “ticket to ride” onto South Carolina’s presidential primary, the former ambassador to China is ready to ride into the sunset.

Advisors Sunday told The New York Times, The Washington Post and others that Huntsman would drop out of the race and endorse former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“The governor and his family, at this point in the race, decided it was time for Republicans to rally around a candidate who could beat Barack Obama and turn around the economy,” Matt David, Huntsman’s campaign manager, said in an interview with the Times. “That candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney.”

On Monday, Huntsman made it official. He said a vote for Romney was best because it gave Republicans the best chance to defeat President Barack Obama. With his endorsement, he also made a plea for Republicans to quit attacking each other.

“This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worth of this critical time in our nation’s history,” he said, according to the Times.

Huntsman to Quit GOP Race, Endorse Romney

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Huntsman launched his campaign in South Carolina, but struggled to gain any traction in what has been a brusing Republican nominating contest. His struggles in South Carolina have been particularly acute, where he was often polling with less suport than comedian Stephen Colbert, who, inspired by that, decided to “explore” a run for president.

The latest polling shows Romney with a comfortable lead, though his support is lagging among conservative evangelicals, who are propelling both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to see gains in their standing. Huntsman endorsement will do little to improve Romney’s standing with those voters, the Times said.

The remaining candidates are set for another debate at 9 p.m. ET in South Carolina. Joining Romney, Gingrich and Santorum will be Rep. Ron Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The latest polling averages from show Romney with about 30 percent support, almost 8 points higher than Gingirch at 22 percent. Paul is supported by 15 percent, just ahead of Santorum.

Perry has a bit more support, though marginally, than Huntsman had before dropping out.

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