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.
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Licence fee: What is the BBC charge – and how will the changes affect you?
- 3 This is what the photographer has to say about the picture of a weasel riding a woodpecker
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
Pornhub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...