According to National Journal, the often strange campaign of Jon Huntsman will come to an end tomorrow in a formal withdrawal from the Republican presidential nomination race. Huntsman plans to endorse Mitt Romney on his way out:
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman will announce on Monday that he is dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination after a disappointing finish in last week’s New Hampshire primary, a source confirmed to National Journal. …
Huntsman will endorse Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, squashing any potential rumors that he will seek to run as an independent candidate.
The New York Times also hears the same thing:
Jon M. Huntsman Jr. informed his advisers on Sunday that he intends to drop out of the Republican presidential race, ending his candidacy a week before he had hoped to revive his campaign in the South Carolina primary.
Mr. Huntsman, who had struggled to live up to the soaring expectations of his candidacy, made plans to make an announcement as early as Monday. He had been set to participate in an evening debate in Myrtle Beach.
Matt David, campaign manager to Mr. Huntsman, confirmed the decision in an interview Sunday evening. “The governor and his family, at this point in the race, decided it was time for Republicans to rally around a candidate who could beat Barack Obama and turn around the economy,” Mr. David said. “That candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney.”
A third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary last week failed to jump start his flagging candidacy, aides said, and his campaign limped into South Carolina with little money. Mr. Huntsman has spent days pondering his future in the race, but aides said that he concluded he was unlikely to topple Mitt Romney or match the momentum of his Republican rivals in the conservative Southern primary.
That was the obvious conclusion after Tuesday’s third-place finish, far back of Romney in the state Huntsman made his stand. Earlier this week, I asked where Huntsman thought his path to victory lay, because it certainly wasn’t going to be South Carolina, Florida, or Michigan. It took Huntsman a few more days than everyone else, but eventually recognized reality.
I used the usual joke in the subhead, but does this really help Mitt Romney? Huntsman’s core of voters in New Hampshire were Democrats, people who didn’t like the Tea Party, and people who generally approve of Barack Obama’s job performance. Where would these voters have gone in this primary without Huntsman anyway? Perhaps a few might have migrated to Ron Paul, but that’s hard to imagine. Romney will graciously accept the endorsement, but it’s not going to change his position much in the next few states anyway. Romney’s better off with more people in the race, not fewer.
Update: Normally National Journal’s Reid Wilson is a good analyst, but he’s way off with this:
Huntsman had sought to portray himself as an electable, pragmatic alternative to the Republican field. He made a point to support teaching the theory of evolution and to acknoweldge the science behind climate change, and he cast himself more recently as the only candidate who has put service to the nation before his own political party, by serving as President Obama’s ambassador to China.
But his message was out of step with a Republican base driven by Tea Party populism and anger with the political status quo almost from the moment he began running. If Huntsman didn’t represent that status quo, voters certainly didn’t see their anger reflected in his calm demeanor. …
He was, in essence, the answer to a call for a pragmatic centrist who could reach out to Democrats that no one in the Republican Party ever made.
As I responded on Twitter, Jon Huntsman wasn’t a “pragmatic centrist who could reach out to Democrats.” He governed in Utah as a conservative in a state controlled by the GOP, but talked like a centrist who despised conservatives. Huntsman’s expensive and embarrassing flop really isn’t much more complicated than that.