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Jon Huntsman Ends Presidential Campaign, Endorses Mitt Romney (VIDEO)

AP/The Huffington Post   First Posted: 01/16/2012 9:54 am Updated: 01/16/2012 11:18 am

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman delivered a speech on his decision to terminate his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and endorse Mitt Romney in Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Monday.

News of Huntsman's intention to abandon his bid for the White House broke on Sunday night. An aide to the Utah Republican told HuffPost's Sam Stein that Huntsman "didn't want to stand in the way of the candidate most prepared to beat Obama and turn around the economy."

In officially announcing his departure from the race on Monday, Huntsman said, "This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people." He added, "This is the most important election of our lifetime."

He asked candidates still competing in the primary race to cease launching negative attacks on one another and called the rhetoric "toxic."

In a campaign email to supporters, Huntsman wrote, "After three years of bigger government, higher taxes and more spending, America desperately needs a return to conservative principles: limited government, lower taxes and balanced budgets." He said, "America is more divided than ever, and for our nation to move forward together with new leadership and unite, the Republican Party must first unite."

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.

The former governor's decision to drop out comes as pressure has been increasing on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to leave the race to allow South Carolina's influential social conservatives to unify behind either former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

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