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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He showed dangerous signs of being sane and competent. Luckily, the GOP didn't let him get anywhere near the nomination.
There is no justice in the world. Huntsman should easily have been the GOP nominee (and I'm a Democrat). Hopefully we'll see him again in 2016 – he might have better luck after Romney gets smashed by Obama, and conservatives are finally forced to accept the fact that running a bunch of candidates without values (and Ron Paul) is not the proper way to win a presidential election.
Curious. Didn't Mr. Huntsman himself say that HE was the candidate best prepared to beat President Obama?
This is really disappointing. Romney is bad news... and incapable of leading this country out of the troubles it currently faces. His record is poor. It is a joke that support is given to a man whose state was 47th in job creation, who created mandated health care and has no international experience what so ever. While a man whose state was 1st in job creation, who creating health care without mandates and has serious understanding and experience with international affairs has fought to get any attention.
Romney can not be trusted – he has spent the majority of his political career trying to campaign for President. He has no interest in the country, he only had interest in power. We will continue to be in trouble if he ends up in the top office of this country.
I hope Romney is beat by Obama and Huntsman comes back stronger than ever in 4 years. He is a true leader with principles, experience and passion for his country.
I do not know why people like Huntsman enter into GOP race. He better know what is wrong with this party. I has no chance for pragmatic people anymore. It is polluted with ultra conservation people and they are the most active in the party. They do not believe in moderate policies that is needed to take this country forward. Like I always says, the real republican party probably died when Abraham Lincon died. He is probably the first and the last true Republican president this country had. I am democratic leaning independant and Huntsman was the only guy that I would ever vote for in GOP. But I know people like them have no chance within that screwed up party.
The guy lost so we should follow his advice and vote for who he says? Here's your sign!
One less clown in the GOP Traveling Goon Show.
Too bad. If we had to have a Republican, he was the most logical choice.
I've always been curious as to what Mr. Huntsman had told President Obama when he resigned his ambassadorship to China to run for President. Was it something to the effect of, "Thank you, Mr. President, for affording me this prestigious opportunity to serve abroad. But, the time is now to run, because you couldn't clean up Mr. Bush's mess in three years, so bleep you." ???
Something is very, very, very scary about Mitt Romney. Very rich, very "perfect." Is he for the "working man" or am I just the only person that seems to feel the "slime" underneath him. Maybe he won't turn out that way.
Best wishes to Jon Huntsman who ran an ethical campaign and spoke with a rare degree of intelligence for a Republican. Too bad he seems to be in the wrong party.
He was the only candidate that wasn't a complete nutjob.
That's too bad... the only sane and "real" GOP candidate in the race.. the only one I would have considered voting for, also, as a Democrat
Huntsman was the best candidate for America. This decision sucks.
Too bad, the GOP is losing it's one sane candidate. Now we're down to Romney, who's just a little bit saner than the rest of the candidates left.
Guess he couldn't handle the heat of polling behind Stephen Colbert!
Shame...I really liked the guy. Had he been chosen as the Republican nominee I wouldn't have minded voting Republican for once. This secures Obama my vote, no way am I voting for a theocracy.
And I thought Jon Huntsman had some real class.
Daddy didn't float him the doe for his campaign !
The Mormon Mafia ............
Kind of strange timing in this announcement, but my guess is that Huntsman is running for vice president.
Huntsman was the only candidate who wasn't either a clown or a total idiot. He was the only republican candidate I could take seriously. Now that he's dropping out, my vote will go to Obama.
Huntsman = best candidate in this race.....
The only one that believes in science and not fairy tails. Oh well.....
So ...... do we now who Romney's VP running mate will be?
Much better choice than Sarah Failin for sure.
Huntsman is a good man with great foreign policy experience. He would make an excellent Secretary of State under Romney.
It's funny though how quickly the Gingrich campaign has chimed in; as if Huntsman's fold and endorsement of Romney would somehow be beneficial for Gingrich.
no! i really like jon, he seemed like the only trustworthy guy in the entire field!