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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn