Jon Huntsman ends presidential campaign, endorses Mitt Romney

On Monday morning, Jon Huntsman announced his decision to quit his presidential bid following a poor showing in New Hampshire's Jan. 10 primary. In his announcement, he derided the negativity permeating the GOP primary race and immediately threw his support behind Mitt Romney.

"Today, I am suspending my campaign for the presidency," the former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China said during a news conference held in Myrtle Beach, S.C. "I believe it is now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. Despite our differences and the space between us on some of the issues, I believe that candidate is Governor Mitt Romney."

Huntsman's support for the former Massachusetts governor is not unexpected given Romney's frontrunner status (including wins in both Iowa and New Hampshire) and the issues on which the two men agree. But the endorsement does add a new twist to their known "frenemy" status.

Huntsman also criticized the tone of the presidential nomination race and the "toxic forum" he believes it has become.

"This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worthy of this critical time in our nation's history," Huntsman said. He called on the presidential candidates to "cease attacking" one another.

Huntsman's statements on Monday were not a surprise given that news of his decision and planned announcement had been leaked Sunday night.

Huntsman chose not to compete in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus Jan. 3 in order to focus his attention on New Hampshire's primary. But his third place finish there was not enough to sustain his campaign, especially as he was heading into a primary in South Carolina Jan. 21, where his moderate record was unlikely to generate wide approval.

Huntsman made his announcement prior to Monday night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina.

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