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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Tim Scott, the ultimate undecided voter
As a Clinton/Gore/Kerry/Obama Democrat, if you Republicans had made him the GOP candidate, I would have voted for him over Obama. Promise!
Hunstman got 745 in Iowa, and he wasn't even running. Romney won the state by 8 votes. So, even that small percentage of votes could assist Romney.
Well, to drop out of a race, you should actually start running one first ... Could never take Huntsman seriously from the beginning ...
If someone like Jon Huntsman is hounded out of the race by the party's "base," then either the Republican Party's days are numbered or ours as a (reasonably) free country are.
Crap, he was the best out of all of them. I think that if he stayed in he would have gained a lot of support later on in the election after the caucuses in other states. Iowa and South Carolina are extremely conservative and it's not realistic to judge his chances based off of the results from those two states.
I am a Latino American citizen of the United States and One thing for sure the I know is the I will never vote for Mitt Romney, the way He talk about immigration sounds inhumane to me, people who has family, own a house, belong to a church, have a job, their kids are in school and they pay taxes should be permitted to become legal after paying a fine to the USA.
What a disappointment and shock to see you drop the race so suddenly after you have done Huckabee 'Undecided' TV Show.
What happened? Especially to endorse the worse candidate that the USA can afford right now: Romney!!!! What a disappointment Mr. Huntsman.
Hopefully whoever wins the nomination will at least select him for their VP.
Something is not right here. Our government has crumbled into decay and has been endorsed by Economic Slavery.
I'd respect him a lot more if he just dropped out without supporting the guy he just told me was the problem with our politics.
I suspect he's supporting Romney because they are both Mormons. All of a sudden I don't like Huntsman.
That's too bad. I thought he had potential. Certainly seemed to be saner than the others running.
Hardly worth front page news. What should be on top is how SC Sen Tom Davis is endorsing Ron Paul. That is HUGE!
The only reasonable candidate in the GOP race bows out... This isn't news.
A shame he abandoned his assignment as ambassador to China to upstage his boss. That did not speak well of him and makes him undeserving of the Office of the President.
Newt may be the only reasonable challenger to Romney, but he is not disciplined.
Santorum definitely believes in his ideas and ideals, but does not have the substance to be president. A role suited best for individuals who can bring people of opposing views together by focusing on areas of commonality.
Romney may be a businessman but the country isn't a business where the under fortunate can be gutted or left by the roadside to fend for themselves. Acknowledging that President Obama has indeed steered this nation from the abyss to a period where we can now focus on being more efficient and the unemployment lines are much shorter than would have been is a must to earning the respect of voters who seek a person who may be a better alternative to the office. Romney definitely lacks genuineness and does not exhibit qualities that endear the independent voter who respects Obama but may be open to an alternate candidate. The GOP surely has work to do in 2016 when they next offer a candidate to challenge President Obama's successor.
If a conservative "reagan" republican is running, I haven't seen him yet.
It was a family decision? That is why he dropped out?
I think he wants the VP spot.
If he's willing to endorse Romney, well..........
And so, the only candidate worth beating Obama that is running.... is out.
Hope Obama does a better job with the next 4 years. I hope the Republicans learn to work with him instead of just sit there and hope the country fails for political points. I hope the government spends more time working for their bosses, us, than they do themselves.
Sigh..... here' s hoping.
He has reserved the post for the secretary of state if Mitt Romney gets elected. Otherwise, nothing more that regret by remembering the ambassador post !
No! Huntsman, you are the best candidate out there. Please re-group, get some more exposure, and run again!! Huntsman 2016!
It is a shame because he is the most qualified, dignified, reasonable, sane, intelligent, worldly, experienced and successful of the whole miserable bunch. The only one who isn't a clown. The only one with respectability who carries himself like an sensible adult. He hasn't really smeared anyone, Obama or anyone else, the way the other idiots are and he hasn't demeaned himself like the others have. The RNC ought to be ashamed of themselves for foisting this bunch of losers on the rest of us. There are many good people in the party who have years of experience working for the government and who have knowledge and talent and ability to lead. Why have they allowed this charade to go on? Who the hell is running the Republican party anyway?
not a smart move. i have lost all respect for him. my vote goes to ron paul. i would never vote for romney, not in a million years and I live in mass and was here when he was governor.
Well, you seemed the most reasonable out of the entire GOP bunch, Mr. Huntsman. Guess my vote is going to Obama this year.
Aw come on Jon you gotta give Ron Paul that endorsement... would have been important =/
Can anyone say Secretary of State if Romeny is elected.