Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jon Huntsman Drops Out Of Presidential Race, Endorses Mitt Romney; Some Supporters Migrating To The Ron Paul Camp

Despite registering an impressive third place finish with 17 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary, Jon Huntsman Jr. dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination on January 16th, 2012. Furthermore, Huntsman also endorsed Mitt Romney, characterizing him as the man best equipped to defeat Barack Obama in the fall. In his statement to supporters, Huntsman added that he will continue to fight for a tax code that unleashes opportunity rather than stifles it; an energy policy that ends our addiction to foreign oil; congressional term limits; education reform that prepares kids for the 21st Century; and financial reform that protects taxpayers from future bailouts.

The decision was triggered by distinct signs that Huntsman's performance in New Hampshire was a fluke. Polls indicate Huntsman was back down in single-digit territory in South Carolina, finishing either fifth or sixth, and despite pouring at least $2 million of his own money into the race, found his campaign increasingly cash-strapped, unable to buy television time or pay for direct mailings to reach voters in South Carolina. An official endorsement by South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State, was not enough to change his mind. Since The State also gave Romney honorable mention in their endorsement, it's possible they may switch their support to Romney.

The decision came as a surprise to Huntsman's top adviser in New Hampshire, Peter Spaulding, who learned the news in a telephone call from a reporter. Spaulding has no regrets about working for Huntsman, saying "I expected him to do better, but you know, it is as it is. He's still a young man and has a lot of future ahead of him". The Daily Mail's Toby Harnden covered part of Huntsman's campaign and said that Huntsman always seemed to be less than the sum of his parts. He noted that Huntsman never overcame the central paradox of his candidacy: while declaring himself to be a Reagan conservative, he marketed himself as a moderate and took every opportunity to bemoan the state of the Republican party, even questioning its sanity. Newt Gingrich hailed Huntsman's decision, saying that "we are one step closer to a bold Reagan conservative winning the GOP nomination", while Mitt Romney said “I salute Jon Huntsman and his wife Mary Kaye. Jon ran a spirited campaign based on unity not division, and love of country. I appreciate his friendship and support.” KSL news video below:

Does Huntsman's drop from GOP race help Romney? |

The New York Times believes that Huntsman's withdrawal will help Romney pick up more support among moderate Republicans, but is unlikely to help him with conservatives. However, the conservatives are split between Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and to a certain degree, Ron Paul, although Paul also has support from libertarians and independents.

Mormon Republican Reaction: Not all LDS Republicans will migrate to Mitt Romney. Comments posted to the Salt Lake Tribune story indicate many are showing a renewed interest in Ron Paul. In fact, a Facebook group, Latter-day Saints for Ron Paul, has formed to mobilize additional LDS support for him. On January 12th, 2012, leading libertarian LDS blogger Connor Boyack wrote "I believe that a sincere review of our doctrine and history in the LDS Church would lead an individual to support not Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon, but the only candidate who has consistently shown a commitment to upholding the Constitution and defending individual liberty: Ron Paul".

I seriously doubt that Romney would choose Huntsman as a running mate; two Mormons on the ticket would provide too much grist for the propaganda mills of anti-Mormons as well as some evangelicals and conspiracy theorists. But Huntsman may end up on the short list for Secretary of State in a Romney Administration; thanks to his service as ambassador to China, few people are more qualified for that post than Huntsman. But the involvement of two members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who expressed their Mormonism in slightly different ways may have helped erode suspicion of a Mormon presidency to the point that Romney can actually get elected. While Romney was portrayed as a more active Mormon than Huntsman, the LDS Church scrupulously avoided any hint of communicating that Romney might be more worthy than Huntsman.

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