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Jon Huntsman Quits GOP Race, Endorses Mitt Romney
The Associated Press | January 16, 2012 | 12:39 PM EST

Jon Huntsman abandoned his once-promising campaign for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday and endorsed Mitt Romney as the man "best equipped to defeat Barack Obama'" in the fall.

The former Utah governor coupled his announcement with an appeal to the remaining contenders to stop attacking one another in television commercials. "At its core, the Republican Party is a party of ideas, but the current toxic form of our political discourse does not help our cause," he said.

He noted that he and Romney have had their differences, and he did not respond to questions when asked if he still believes — as he said while campaigning for last week's New Hampshire primary — that the former Massachusetts governor is out of touch and unelectable.

Huntsman said he was suspending his candidacy, but his endorsement made it clear that was a euphemism. He dropped out less than a week after finishing third in New Hampshire, the state where he had staked his candidacy. While he has campaigned for nearly a week in South Carolina, he lacked the funds for television commercials or other essentials of a modern campaign.

Given Huntsman's decision to back Romney, his departure seemed unlikely to clarify the overriding question of the Republican campaign, whether conservative voters could or would unify behind either Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry to create a strong conservative challenger to Romney.

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