Campaign aides for Jon Huntsman are saying that the former governor of Utah will withdraw from the Republican primary race on Monday and endorse Mitt Romney for president. Both the AP and Buzzfeed report that he will make his announcement official at an 11:00 a.m. event in South Carolina. After hanging in much longer than any one expected (or thought reasonable), Huntsman will drop out just six days before Saturday's vote in South Carolina, because he reportedly does not want to stand in the way of Romney's nomination, claiming he has the best shot to beat Barack Obama.
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Fortunately there was little danger of him standing anyone's way when it comes to the GOP nomination. Huntsman, who like Romney is a Mormon ex-governor with nice hair and strong ties to Utah, was never able to distinguish himself as a legitimate alternative to Mitt, or any of the social conservatives in the field. As a former ambassador to China he was dogged both by his association with the Obama administration and a job that kept him out of the country during the important years leading up to the primary race, when gaining name and face recognition (and raising money) are so vital. He also did himself no favors by making zero attempt to court social conservatives, mocking those who believe in creationism rather than evolution, and making no effort to campaign in the first caucus state of Iowa. After focusing all his early efforts on New Hampshire, he came in a disappointing third place last Tuesday.
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Despite declaring that finish a reason to keep pushing, Huntsman has been polling behind everyone in South Carolina, including TV host Stephen Colbert, who is not even a real candidate. Now comes the most difficult task of all presidential also-rans, throwing your support behind the nominee of your party, while trying to pretend that you didn't just spend the last six months painting him as an out-of-touch flip-flopper who is unfit to lead the nation.