MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.-- Jon Huntsman is dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination and will throw his support to rival Mitt Romney.
A Republican close to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Huntsman had not yet made his decision public, told Yahoo News the former Utah governor informed his staff of his decision on Sunday night. He's expected to publicly endorse Romney at a news conference in South Carolina Monday morning.
Huntsman's decision comes just days after he came in a disappointing third place in New Hampshire's Republican presidential primary. The ex-governor, who resigned as President Obama's ambassador to China to run for president, had bet his entire campaign on a good showing in the state, where voters have often looked favorably upon politicians with moderate political views.
But Huntsman failed to catch fire, in spite of early media buzz about his candidacy. He continued campaigning in South Carolina as late as Sunday afternoon, where his campaign touted a high-profile endorsement from The State, one of the state's most prominent newspapers. The publication praised Huntsman as a candidate who could unite the country.
Huntsman's decision to back Romney isn't surprising, given that the two agree more than they disagree. But they have also long been considered "frenemies," with a relationship complicated by similar political trajectories and a long history of competition between their families.
The immediate impact of Huntsman's exit from the race is unclear. He's lingered near the bottom of most national polls for months, and there's no sign that he's gained support in South Carolina, Florida or any upcoming primary states. Yet, Romney's campaign is likely to cite Huntsman's endorsement as yet another sign of the party uniting behind the former Massachusetts governor's candidacy.
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