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Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman exited the race for the Republican presidential race today, telling reporters in Myrtle Beach, S.C., that it is time for the GOP to unite behind frontrunner Mitt Romney.
Huntsman, who served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China until stepping down in April, finished a disappointing third in the New Hampshire primary. Huntsman had campaigned only in the Granite State, staking the viability of his presidential campaign on his performance there. Despite saying he was moving on to South Carolina after last Tuesday’s primary, Huntsman never appeared in contention for the nomination.
“Today, our campaign for the presidency ends,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman clashed bitterly with Romney in New Hampshire. But he said in his remarks today that the former Massachusetts governor gives Republicans their best chance to defeat Obama in the fall. Huntsman and Romney, both Mormons, have deep familial ties despite their differences on the presidential stage. In 2008, Huntsman endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over Romney in the GOP primary.
Huntsman’s withdrawal from the primary comes on the same day the GOP candidates are set to participate in one of two debates being held before Saturday’s Palmetto State primary, and one day after he was endorsed by the State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper.
Romney, who was also endorsed by Tim Pawlenty after the former Minnesota governor dropped out of the presidential race last summer, was not present with Huntsman when he announced his exit from the race.