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4115Hunstman to drop out, endorse Romney

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  • Greg Cannon
    Jan 15, 2012
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      Sources: Huntsman to drop out of 2012 race tomorrow, endorse Romney

      1/15/12 9:19 PM EST

      Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who was seen by Democrats months ago as the potential biggest threat to President Obama in a general election, is dropping out of the race tomorrow and will endorse Mitt Romney, a campaign official confirms to POLITICO.

      A source said that Huntsman's rationale for backing Romney, who he has criticized for weeks on the campaign trail as lacking a "core," is that he didn't want to block the person best prepared in the field to beat Obama, and then to lead the country and grapple with the economy.

      "Jon Huntsman is proud of the campaign he ran and the message of restoring trust in Washington," said a campaign official familiar with his thinking. "He didn't want to stand in the way of the candidate most likely to beat Barack Obama and turn the economy around. That's Mitt Romney."

      It's a tough ending for Huntsman, who basically went broke months back, uprooted his campaign to New Hampshire - only to come in a disappointing third place.

      His campaign has been low on funds, and faced grim prospects in Saturday's South Carolina primary. Huntsman himself has expressed reluctance to loan his campaign more than the $2 million he initially seeded it with.

      His father had been the chief funder of a super PAC backing his son, but the wealthy Huntsman Corp. executive has, according to sources, grown leery of throwing money into the effort.

      Sources said there is an 11 a.m. endorsement expected tomorrow, followed a few hours later by a scheduled 2 p.m. meeting for all of Huntsman's staff.

      Pulling the plug now allows Huntsman to preserve the positives of his third place showing, a result that did reflect momentum that lifted him from single digits in polls less than two weeks earlier. There has been speculation he might run as a third-party candidate, but he has insisted that is not the case - and endorsing Romney would seem to make that impossible.