MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman formally dropped out of the 2012 presidential campaign on Monday, but not before calling on the remaining candidates to cease attacks that have rendered Republican discourse “toxic.”
Xiaci jian, Huntsman. See you next time.
Huntsman endorsed current GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney as a candidate able to unify Republican voters – “despite our differences, and the space between us on some of the issues.”
Huntsman’s withdrawal reduces the field of GOP contenders in tonight’s Fox News/Wall Street Journal debate to five: Romney, the frontrunner; former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
More candidates could exit after Saturday’s primary – the first 2012 presidential contest in the South.
Huntsman had shunned the Iowa caucuses in favor of a full-court press in New Hampshire, where he finished in a disappointing third-place. He’d kept a public posture of competitiveness, declaring – in a clip now being shown nonstop on cable news – that third-place was “a ticket to ride.”
“We go South from here,” he said during a CNN interview in New Hampshire. And that’s exactly what happened.
Preceded to the stage by four daughters and his wife, and with his father in the audience, the former U.S. ambassador to China acknowledged that his effort had been “the longest of long shots” and said he would suspend his campaign.
Huntsman, who had campaigned on more civil discourse in politics, first directed his exit message at the candidates he was leaving behind:
”This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worthy of this critical time in our nation’s history….
“Only bold ideas will get us to where we need to be. And this campaign needs to be driven by those ideas. 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. And it’s just one of the many reasons why the American people have lost trust in their American leaders.
“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….”
Huntsman blistered President Barack Obama for intentionally inciting “class warfare for political gain.”
Huntsman took no questions from reporters, and how his support for Romney might manifest itself.
The former Utah governor also promised to stay engaged on issues such as a “flatter tax code,” and congressional term limits. He promised to “continue fighting to bring back our men and women from Afghanistan” and to “stop nation-building overseas.”
Which argues that Huntsman might consider trying again, in 2016 or later.
Newt Gingrich insists Huntsman withdrawal will help him. “With Governor Huntsman dropping out, we are one step closer to a bold Reagan conservative winning the GOP nomination,” a Gingrich spokesman declared this morning.
Rick Santorum declared that Huntsman’s endorsement of Romney was irrelevant. “Moderates are endorsing moderates,” he said in Columbia, S.C., today.
Late last night, after news broke of Huntsman’s withdrawal and endorsement of Mitt Romney, a lot of house-cleaning was in order. From the New York Times:
Mr. Huntsman’s campaign, which struggled to raise money for expensive television ads, put many of his harshest attacks against Mr. Romney into clever and biting online videos that he posted to his campaign’s Web site and a corresponding YouTube channel.
Those videos (and a few television commercials) are now mostly gone, quickly yanked from public view as Mr. Huntsman prepares for an 11 a.m. endorsement of Mr. Romney.
Some background from the Associated Press:
Huntsman’s resume had suggested he could be a major contender for the Republican presidential nomination: businessman, diplomat, governor, veteran of four presidential administrations, an expert on China and foreign trade. But the former ambassador to China in the Obama administration found a poor reception for his brand of moderate civility that he had hoped would draw support from independents, as well as party moderates.
Huntsman was almost invisible in a race often dominated by Romney, a fellow Mormon. One reason was timing. For months, Romney and other declared or expected-to-declare candidates drew media attention and wooed voters in early primary states.
Huntsman, however, was half a world away, serving as ambassador to China until he resigned in late April. Nearly two more months would pass before his kickoff speech on June 22 in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. The former Utah governor had already acknowledged that expectations for him in South Carolina’s primary this week will be “very low.” Word of the Huntsman withdrawal came on the same day that The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, endorsed him for president.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider