Jon Huntsman will officially drop out of the presidential race and endorse Mitt Romney at 11am today in South Carolina—but why? Just last Tuesday, Huntsman was suggesting that Romney was "pretty much unelectable" after his statement about liking to fire people. Politico explains:
- Huntsman "didn’t want to stand in the way of the candidate most likely to beat Barack Obama and turn the economy around," says one campaign official. "That’s Mitt Romney." And Huntsman's handful of South Carolina voters will likely switch to Romney—even a small number of extra votes could help Romney clinch the win—which is why Huntsman, who wants to be seen as a team player since Romney will likely be the nominee, will exit now rather than after the South Carolina primary.
- Huntsman also saw a better chance to control the coverage of his exit by getting out now. If he waited until after the primary, his withdrawal could be overshadowed by Rick Perry's anticipated departure. By leaving now, Huntsman departs on the high note of his New Hampshire third-place finish, which came after a surge in the polls.
- Even so, that finish was "too little too late," says one official, and the campaign didn't have any money for TV, radio, or direct-mail ads this coming week. There was no fundraising bump after the New Hampshire primary, Huntsman himself was reluctant to loan the campaign more money, and even his father was wary of providing any additional funding to a pro-Huntsman super PAC.
- Nate Silver concurs with Politico's assessment that Huntsman's exit will help Romney. In the New York Times, he compiles the results of seven recent Public Policy Polling surveys and finds that 32% of Huntsman supporters named Romney as their second choice. Next up was Ron Paul, whom 15% picked as a second choice. (But 24% of Huntsman backers were undecided.)
In a bit of irony, Huntsman's exit came on the very day South Carolina's biggest newspaper, The State
, endorsed him