As expected, Jon Huntsman withdrew from the Republican presidential nomination sweepstakes this morning, endorsing Mitt Romney as he exits — as well as scolding Republicans just one last time. In a public statement from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Huntsman rebuked his Republican colleagues for going negative and personal in the primary fight:
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman abandoned his quest for the presidency Monday morning with an endorsement of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and an unexpectedly sharp condemnation of the “toxic” tone that the Republican primary battle has taken.
“This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worthy off this critical time in American history,” Huntsman said in a news conference in which he was flanked by his wife, children, father and South Carolina supporters.
Huntsman did not name names in aiming criticism at his rivals, but he did take a shot at President Obama for engaging in what Huntsman called “class warfare” and said it contributed to divisiveness in American politics. But Huntsman, who often talked on the campaign trail about rebuilding trust in the political process, made clear that he thinks the GOP race has taken an ugly turn.
Yeah … it did get ugly, but it’s not as if Huntsman was clucking his tongue from the sidelines of the personal attack war. Even apart from his contention in New Hampshire earler this month that the GOP went insane when Barack Obama got elected, Huntsman delivered more than his own share of zingers — at the expense of the man he’s now endorsing for the nomination, as CNN’s collection of Huntsman attacks shows. Romney “enjoys firing people,” Huntsman told the media, taking Romney’s quote out of context in two separate clips, but otherwise, Huntsman’s attacks were aboveboard, if plentiful, certainly negative, and arguably personal:
On Thursday, Huntsman proclaimed Romney “unelectable,” and today he endorsed Romney. Maybe that’s contrition, or maybe Huntsman needed to take some of his own advice weeks and months ago.
Update: Romney doesn’t seem all that excited to get the endorsement, as The Hill reports:
Romney’s eventual email on Huntsman was a terse email and tweet that barely mentioned the endorsement. “I salute Jon Huntsman and his wife Mary Kaye,” Romney said. “Jon ran a spirited campaign based on unity not division, and love of country. I appreciate his friendship and support.”
That stands in contrast to Romney’s embrace of Tim Pawlenty’s endorsement. After Pawlenty endorsed Romney in September Romney named him a national co-chair of his campaign.
“It is an honor to have Governor Pawlenty’s support,” said Romney at the time. “Tim will be a trusted adviser as I move forward with my campaign. Tim has always been an advocate for lower taxes, reduced spending, and an environment where jobs can be created. It is an honor to have him serve as co-chair to my campaign for the presidency.”