Bye Bye: Huntsman to Drop White House Bid, Endorse Romney

Kate Hicks

1/15/2012 10:12:00 PM - Kate Hicks

In an unsurprising move, Jon Huntsman has decided to forgo his White House bid, and on Monday will announce that he's dropping out of the race. Furthermore -- and this is a bit of a surprise -- the former Utah governor will endorse Mitt Romney, despite the highly critical campaign Huntsman ran against the frontrunner.

Huntsman's exit comes less than a week after he claimed victory from his third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, the contest he’d staked his candidacy on ever since entering the race last summer. Huntsman experienced a surge of support in the closing days before that vote, but he still fell well short of Ron Paul — and even further behind Romney.

Those final days also including heavy sniping at Romney.

A source said that Huntsman’s rationale for now backing Romney, who he has criticized for weeks on the campaign trail as lacking a “core,” is that he didn’t want to block the person best prepared in the field to beat Obama, and then to lead the country and grapple with the economy.

“Jon Huntsman is proud of the campaign he ran and the message of restoring trust in Washington,” said a campaign official familiar with his thinking. “He didn’t want to stand in the way of the candidate most likely to beat Barack Obama and turn the economy around. That’s Mitt Romney.”

Huntsman's perceived status as a moderate dogged him throughout his erstwhile campaign, and many felt he made himself exceedingly unlikeable in debates, rebuffing conservatives in favor of independents and coming across as condescending. His candidacy never gained much traction, and he placed all his chips in New Hampshire, but to no avail. He's apparently decided that third place earned him "a ticket to ride" to South Carolina -- and then get off the train.