[credit provider=”Michael Brendan Dougherty for Business Insider”]
Jon M. Huntsman Jr. told campaign advisors today that he intends to drop out of the 2012 GOP race, one week ahead of the South Carolina primaries. He will endorse Romney, according to The New York Times. That should end all speculation that he will join a quixotic, career-ending third-party bid. Huntsman should have been a contender.
He was an extremely popular two-term governor, who won re-election with almost 80 per cent of the vote. He could check off every position on a default Republican’s wishlist. He signed more pro-life legislation than his competitors. He expanded gun-rights. He lowered taxes in his state historically.
And as his campaign was anxious to remind everyone: He had lots of foreign policy experience. He served as Trade Representative, and three times as Ambassador.
But Huntsman and the media defined his candidacy as that of a moderate. And at times, his tweeting seemed to antagonize the Republican base rather than rally it. Instead of coming out of his post as America’s ambassador to China under Obama as a whistleblower, he promised a “civil” campaign.
His campaign strategy began with focusing on New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida. He eventually abandoned that for a New Hampshire only strategy. In the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, his name seemed to disappear from the media. In the last three days before the New Hampshire primary, his campaign surged from 7 per cent, to 17 per cent on election night.
Alas, third place was not enough to give him enough momentum to change his position in the race. Further poll finishes behind Ron Paul or the conservative also-rans would likely damage his viability in the future. He is getting out while the getting out is at its best.