Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman will drop out of the race on Monday and endorse Mitt Romney, a senior official with the former Utah governor's campaign told CNN.
"Gov. Huntsman did not want to stand in the way of the candidate best prepared to beat (President) Barack Obama and turn our economy around. That's Mitt Romney," the campaign official said.
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Another source said Huntsman’s decision was a "family decision."
The family will accompany him to an 11 a.m. event in Myrtle Beach where he's expected to announce the end of his campaign.
"He went to church today and sat down and met with some supporters. A final decision was made after that," the source said, adding that his family spent the last few days discussing the decision.
The former U.S. Ambassador to China was set to compete in South Carolina's primary Saturday, following his third place finish in last week's New Hampshire's primary, a contest in which he almost entirely focused his campaign resources.
Members of his South Carolina campaign staff appeared to be surprised by the news.
John Rainey, an influential businessman and longtime Republican fundraiser in the Palmetto State, as well as a member of Huntsman’s South Carolina finance team, said he was completely flat-footed when he received a phone call from one of Huntsman's aides Sunday night.
“I got the call, and his first words were, ‘Are you sitting down?’”
Rainey said he was scheduled to meet with the former Utah governor on Tuesday, along with a dozen or more influential South Carolina Republicans.
He said the same group met recently with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and they wanted to meet with Huntsman to ask how he saw his path to the 2012 Republican nomination.
Campaigning in South Carolina last week, the former governor barely registered in a poll measuring support in the state, gaining only 1% of backing among likely GOP primary voters, according to a recent American Research Group survey.
Gingrich’s campaign issued a statement after news of Huntsman’s decision broke.
“With Governor Huntsman dropping out, we are one step closer to a bold Reagan conservative winning the GOP nomination,” spokesman R.C. Hammond said.
The announcement comes the same day the former U.S. Ambassador to China scored a big endorsement from South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State.
Huntsman, whose calm demeanor and moderate positions on some issues failed to gain traction among the party's conservative base, launched his presidential campaign on June 21.
– CNN's Shawna Shepherd and Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.
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Just goes to show how phoney all these guys are. Today, one will say this guy is steals from old ladies and is a pervert, the next day he'll endorse him and say he loves old ladies and children. Mitt Romney is the worst of the lot, all he knows is how to gut companies and make people unemployed. Just what America needs, a vulture. Watch him sell Social Security and Medicare to his pals, privatizing it and watch how Wall Street like drunks will gamble your money and benefits away. You think Social Security doesn't have enough money coming in now, wait till they get their greedy hands on it. If you don't think so, you must have forgotten what Wall Street and the banks did to people's IRA...they went from 401Ks to 101Ks. And don't plan on retiring anytime soon, they will raise the retirement age to 70 which means many will die before seeing a penny. This is the real Romney.
I am so upset he's dropping out. He's the only real candidate. It's upsetting that only bashing politicians get their day in the sun. I know that's the way it goes, but I thought we'd grown up. I'm hoping he'll be considered as a VP.
That's good news for Obama. Huntsman is one of the few Republicans who could mount a real challenge to his Presidency. A principled conservative, it never appeared Huntsman was comfortable with the vitriolic rhetoric or intellectual flabbiness of Tea Party Nationalists.
As far as Gingrich is concerned, he's too narcissistic to realize "bold Reagan conservatives" were rejected long ago by the Tea Party Nationalists he's courting.
Somehow I wouldn't find it surprising if Huntsman gets magically hired on Romney's administration IF he wins.
Huntsman endorses Romney? The little bit of respect I had for him is gone!
That's good. Many people didn't know who he was. There haven't been any ads for him in our state.
He was best the GOP had to offer!
Huntsman has laid the foundation for his 2016 run. If the GOP gets creamed in 2012 they may finally come around to an intelligent moderate.
As Republicans drop out of the race they endorse Romney I wonder why. There is little difference between a left leaning Republican and a right leaning Democrat. Most people are in the middle. But why do Republicans want a Republican to win? A Republican president now is bad for the country, It means continued obstructionism, gridlock, and the growth of Outsourcing attendant to Globalization that lacks the structure to ever work.. The baby boomers, the group that is about to retire and has paid the most into social security, is now facing cuts. It's wrong, it's unfair, business at the expense of people, it's Republican. Right now, the very word Republican is dirty.
“Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.”... that was huntsman LAST week. I guess everyone has their price.
Too bad. Man was too honest and decent to have a chance.
Huntsman was too nice to be a Republican nominee. They won't give you the top slot in that party unless you're an outright puppy-kicker.
In other words, the "least Crazy" of that bunch of Lunitics is going to endorse the "2nd least crazy" with the Magic Underwear.
Huntsman should endorse Obama and turn dem, he's the only simi normal republican canidate out of the teapublican clown show, people from south Carolina don't know any better and should be voting for DEMS to improve their standard of living and not the teapublican clowns who just want cheep labor.
II had the pleasure of hearing Huntsman speak here in NH. I was impressed with his knowledge and ability to articulate his own ideas. He never got into the anti-Obama tirade other candidates seem to rely on; he simply presented his ideas and displayed a deep understanding of the problems facing our country. I liked him enough to say I would vote for him if he ever was able to get the nomination. A moderate Republican who didn't feel obligated to cater to the extreme right or any religious blocs. His was the only voice of reason and logic in this sordid Republican mess, and I am very sorry to see him go.
That's a shame, he's really the best candidate of the bunch. Guess he's just not wacky enough for today's "corporations are people too" republican party. Looks like it's going to be Flip Romney.
Romney is running away with this, and will be our next President..
from the very beginning, in support of cousin Romney .
good luck ron paul.
It is to bad that Huntsman could not get his message through to the deaf ears of the right wing conservatives. He would be what the independants and moderate republicans wanted and he had enough power in the disappointed moderate democrats. Kind of what most Americans want in their government official but not the media and fringe !
That's too bad. He was the voice of reason in a field otherwise full of sociopaths and nutcases. He's also the Republican that stands the best chance of beating Obama in the fall and the only one I would consider to replace Obama. We have to face facts, the parties, especially the Republicans, have been taken over by the lunatic fringe. I find that sad.
Huntsman is unimportant anyway.His endorsment of Romney will probably add about what, 8 or 9 more votes.
Typical Republican Party good old boys club. Support the guy who is "next in line". This is the same party who had a Bush or a Dole on the ticket for the last 20 odd years. They do not like change which is why Huntsman never got traction.
That's too bad. He was one of the better in a bad lot.
This is great news for Obama – Huntsman is really the only GOP candidate that had a chance of attracting independents and moderates. With him gone, the choice is going to be between Obama and the GOP Crazy of the Week!