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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I should have seen that coming since he never polled well. Besides, most Republicans don't want to hear about people believing and trusting science. They only trust what the industries tell them.
Another one down...wonder who he will throw in with for SC?
What a shame.
Great news! At least Huntsman finally realized his campaign wasn't going anywhere. I look forward to Perry following soon!
Huntsman was the best qualified candidate, especially considering his ability to work with China. THis is the state of today's Republican party – the best qualified candidate is pushed aside because his views are too moderate.
And yes I noticed he was "Planning" to endorse Romney, but I won't believe it till I see it in this race.
Sad, very sad he was the best of the bunch.
A few others should "drop out" too. Huntsman was polling at 1%. This just might HURT MITTens when he gets that endorsement from Huntsman!!!
A real class act....no idea why he stays in the Republican party!
None and Done
I'm disappointed that Huntsman doesn't have the character to endorse the man he most resembles as a modern leader – President Obama. I understand Huntsman and Romney both wear the magic underwear but what would he see in Romney as a leader? Does he know Romney well enough to know his newly found "conservatism" is merely an act?
I really liked Gov. Huntsman a lot. I am a independent and African-American so I feel I am not as biased as some. However, Mr. Huntsman IMO, kept a honest and clean run for the Presidency! I wish the best for him in the future.
Another one bites the dust. He's a " turncoat " and deserves to lose.
It figures that he'd endorse his cousin. Gotta keep the ineptitude in the family, after all...
If anybody is surprised with this move on the part of Jon Huntsman, that is not me. So much for millions of dollars of dear money in this crippling recession.
The most balanced appearing character of the Republican offering leaves the stage.
I think it's good decision! Huntsman for 2016!! Come stronger than ever!!
Goodbye Huntsman. We'll wait for you in 2016.
I am REALLY suprised Huntsman is endorsing Romney - that was a shock
Other than that I actually liked him – he is smart and honestly seems to want to help every American. But the choice is clear.
Ron Paul is speaking for ALL Americans – that is the difference between him and everone else including OBAMA who I voted for last election. Do you actually BELIEVE in your candidate?"
Well lets face it, he had the stench of Obama on him so it was hopeless.
Gov. Huntsman, as many others have said, was and is the best candidate for the GOP to run against President Obama. It is not surprising that the GOP and their myopically hypocritical conservative base couldn't see this – but I was looking forward to serious, intelligent, and articulate debates between Huntsman and Obama. Now, the President is virtually guaranteed a second term. Hope Governor Huntsman considers a run in 2016.
Just lost all respect for this man
Ron Paul 2012
ugh. why, jon? why would you support such a wishy-washy populist silver-spooned fool as mitt romney? to gain more traction in your party? i thought you were above such partisan plays, we all did. do you know how much respect you'd have gained from keeping on the campaign trail through it's conclusion? do you just want to cozy up to the front runner and get your name on his election ticket? do you know what the gutsier play would've been, what would've shown that you're more than just a politician, that you don't just side with this party that has all but rejected you? running with obama. you'd attract all the moderate republicans, you'd show that you are willing to put your ideals before your party. you'd cause a sensation and everyone would know your name. now, the best that can happen is that you'll run with romney. and maybe you'll get far. but you won't win in 2016. or in 2020. or after that. you could've been great jon. now you're just an also-ran, supporting someone who is no better than an expensive flag: all style, no substance, and blows with the wind.
Disappointing. Why would Huntsman with his country first approach endorse the party first Romney?
Oh well, it is now Obama 2012!
As a Utah resident, I was sad to see Huntsman leave as Governor. I thought Huntsman did a fine job for the State. This is disappointing news to see he's now dropped from the Presidential bid. Maybe Jon can come back to Utah as Governor again (Wishful thinking anyway) :)
I can't stand any of the remaining GOP candidates.... maybe Ron Paul then....