Former US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, whose presidential campaign never connected with Republican primary voters, was to withdraw yesterday from the race for the nomination, his campaign manager said on Sunday.
Huntsman campaign manager Matt David said Huntsman would announce his withdrawal at an event in South Carolina, site of the next primary vote and that Huntsman would endorse former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, whom he believes is the best candidate to beat US President Barack Obama in November, campaign officials said.
The former Utah governor placed third in last week’s New Hampshire primary despite devoting most of his campaign resources to the state.
He had already said that -expectations for him in South Carolina’s primary this week would be “very low.”
Word of the Huntsman withdrawal came on the same day the State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, endorsed him for president.
The endorsement said there were “two sensible, experienced grown-ups in the race,” referring to Romney and Huntsman.
However, it said Huntsman “is more principled, has a far more impressive resume and offers a significantly more important message.”
Huntsman’s resume suggested he could be a major contender for the Republican nomination: businessman, diplomat, governor, veteran of four presidential administrations, an expert on China and on foreign trade. With a -personal fortune based on his family’s global chemical company, he could be a late entry into the nomination contest without necessarily hobbling his campaign.
Yet Huntsman was almost invisible in a race often dominated by Romney, a fellow Mormon.
To distinguish his candidacy in a crowded field, Huntsman positioned himself as a tax-cutting, budget-balancing chief executive and former business executive who could rise above partisan politics. That would prove to be a hard sell to the conservatives dominating the early voting contests, especially in an election cycle marked by bitter divisions between Republicans and Democrats and a boiling antipathy for Obama.
Huntsman also tried to offer a different tenor, promising a -campaign marked by civility.
“I don’t think you need to run down somebody’s reputation in order to run for the office of president,” he said.
While Huntsman was often critical of his former boss — he joined those saying Obama had failed as a leader — and occasionally jabbed at Romney, he spent more of his time in debates pushing his own views for improving the economy than thumping the president or his opponents.
In light of his work in the Obama administration, Republicans seemed wary of Huntsman. While he cast his appointment in August 2009 as US ambassador to China as answering the call to serve his country, his critics grumbled that he had in fact been working on behalf of the opposition.