January 16, 2012
U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman planned to drop out of the race for the GOP nomination, media reports said Sunday night.
The former Utah governor will announce his decision as early as Monday, the New York Times and CNN reported.
Huntsman has mostly failed to gain traction in this election season, staying at the bottom of the pack in major national polls. He skipped the Iowa caucuses early this month and staked his candidacy almost entirely on a strong showing in the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire last week.
However, a third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary failed to bring the momentum he needed to keep his campaign going. While he vowed to stay in the race and press ahead to South Carolina, the next battleground, the candidate is not expected to go anywhere in the state, which is more conservative than New Hampshire and where evangelicals have strong influence on politics.
Huntsman, 51, distinguishes from the rest of the field with significant foreign policy experiences. He served in diplomatic positions in the two Bush administrations and as ambassador to China under President Barack Obama.
He is a moderate, which works against him in the conservative-dominated Republican primaries. He also faces challenges from his Mormon faith and experience of working for a Democratic president.
After quitting the race, Huntsman will endorse former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the long-time front-runner who claimed back-to-back victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire, according to the reports.
Huntsman’s dropping out is expected to benefit Romney most, as the two candidates have been competing for a similar pool of GOP primary voters — Republican moderates.