Huntsman drops out of Republican race

Candidate's departure and support for moderate rival prompts calls among conservatives to unite

The race to become this year's Republican presidential nominee got a little less crowded yesterday as Jon Huntsman, a former Governor of Utah, called it quits and offered his endorsement to Mitt Romney, potentially giving him an important boost before this Saturday's primary election in South Carolina.

Though conservative on fiscal policy, Mr Huntsman had otherwise stood out in the field as a relative moderate who mostly resisted pandering to the right. He maintained his support for civil unions for gays and lesbians, for instance. That – and his time spent recently as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China – made him a non-starter with a broad swath of the party. While he came in a decent third in New Hampshire last week, nationally he has consistently polled in the single digits.

Standing with his wife, father and four daughters on a podium in Myrtle Beach, Mr Huntsman reiterated another theme of his now-defunct campaign – civility on the trail. "The race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people," he said, urging the candidates still in the field to lay down their arms. "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."

His endorsement of Mr Romney as the "candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama" may help the former Massachusetts Governor, who is looking to make it three in a row with a win in South Carolina. The extra few percentage points of support could be important on Saturday. But wavering conservatives may see Mr Huntsman's endorsement as confirmation that Mr Romney is similarly too close to the centre ideologically to earn their support.

There are now five competitors remaining with three among them – Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry – battling for the conservative vote in the knowledge that the only way Mr Romney will be stopped is if just one of them emerges as the conservative alternative in the state, where Republican ranks are heavy with evangelical Christians. Mr Perry, the Governor of Texas, looks the most vulnerable and might be forced out of the race after this weekend, when the focus shifts to the Florida primary.

"It narrows down the field and I think the next five or six days are going to tell the tale," Mr Gingrich said of Mr Huntsman's departure. "If the conservatives consolidate, it's clear that I'll beat Romney. The next five days are going to be wild. Really, the test here is really simple: if the conservatives consolidate, Romney loses decisively. If they don't consolidate, it's going to be very close."

Mr Santorum, a former US Senator in Pennsylvania with staunch social-conservative views, said only that he had been expecting Mr Huntsman to throw in the towel earlier. As for the Romney endorsement, he was dismissive: "Moderates are backing moderates... no surprise there."

The remaining candidates, including libertarian Ron Paul, who looks unlikely to repeat his second-place finish from New Hampshire in South Carolina, were to engage in a live television debate last night. Another debate is set for Thursday.

News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

DT Teacher - Resistant Materials

£33000 - £34000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Technology Teacher (Resis...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?