GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr., announced on Monday he was bringing to an end his bid for the White House, marking an end to the candidacy of one of the most pro-gay contenders in the Republican field.
In an address to supporters at Myrtle Beach, S.C., the former Utah governor announced he was exiting the race and throwing his support behind frontrunner Mitt Romney.
“I am suspending my campaign for the presidency,” Huntsman said. “I believe it is now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. Despite our differences and the space between us on some of the issues, I believe that candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney.”
The former Massachusetts governor wasn’t in attendance during the event, but said via Twitter, “I salute Jon Huntsman & his wife Mary Kaye. He ran a campaign based on unity not division, & love of country. I appreciate his support.”
During his announcement, Huntsman criticized the “onslaught of negative and personal attacks” that he said comprised presidential campaigns, adding they distracted from the common Republican goal of seeking new leadership for the country.
“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, and is just one of the many reasons why the American people have lost trust in their elected leaders,” Huntsman said.
Much attention has given to negative Super PAC ads in the presidential campaign, including ones that attack on Romney for his treatment of companies he purchased as head of Bain Capital.
Huntsman announced his departure after he finished third place in the New Hampshire primary and took 17 percent of the Republican vote. Many observers said a strong showing the libertarian-leaning state was crucial for the moderate candidate to continue his campaign.
Leaders of gay conservatives groups had different reactions to Huntsman’s exit, but had similar takes on the inclusiveness the candidate promoted during his presidential campaign.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of National Log Cabin Republican, said Huntsman supporters — including himself — are “sad to see such a solid pragmatic conservative” discontinue his presidential bid.