After a series of disappointing finishes and a failure to emerge from the pack, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman announced his withdrawal from the 2012 presidential race on Monday (January 16). Huntsman threw his support behind leading candidate Mitt Romney in a bid to unite a Republican party that is sorely divided over which candidate will take on President Obama in November.
"Our campaign for the presidency ends, but our campaign for a (better) American continues," Huntsman said during an official announcement in South Carolina during which he made a plea to the remaining candidates to stop launching attack ads on each other because "the current toxic form of our political discourse does not help our cause."
Huntsman served as ambassador to China in the Obama administration and was the sole voice of moderation amid a pack of White House contenders that have done their utmost to highlight their conservative bona fides. After skipping campaigning in Iowa to focus all his energies on last week's New Hampshire primary, he came in a distant third to Romney and Ron Paul.
And though he put on a brave face and said his #3 finish in New Hampshire was a "ticket to ride" to the next contest in South Carolina on January 21, the reality of his anemic support base appears to have become clear to the man whose bid was launched on the promise of bringing civility back to the process. Almost from the start, Huntsman was unable to win over a Republican voting base that looked at his service in the current Democrat administration with scorn and blanched at his support on some social issues, including civil unions for gay couples.
In a campaign that struggled to pull polling numbers out of the single digits for most of the past year, one of the bright spots for Huntsman was the media embrace of his music-loving daughters' social-networking prowess. Sisters Mary Anne, 26, Abby, 25, and Liddy, 24, helped focus some attention on their dad's often-overlooked campaign with their irreverent viral videos and tweets..
Speaking to MTV's Power of 12 last week in New Hampshire, the Huntsman trio said the grueling campaign was a "family affair" that they were really enjoying. "We call it a roller coaster: You never know which way the car is going to go," said Abby on the eve of the Granite State contest when it looked like her dad's poll numbers were finally inching up into the solid double digits.
"We think [social media] is crucially important for this election cycle, especially for our younger generation, so we've kind of run with it," added Liddy, referring to such now-infamous bits as a YouTube send-up of former candidate Herman Cain's "smoking" commercial and a Justin Timberlake remake promoting their dad. Despite his pledge to endorse Romney, just last week Huntsman referred to the former Massachusetts governor as "unelectable."
With Huntsman — who, like Romney, was vying to be the nation's first Mormon president — out of the race, leading candidate Romney is now facing off against Paul, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry.
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