“I’m Jon Huntsman, and I’m humbled.”
With these words — spoken before the Statue of Liberty almost seven months ago — the former ambassador to China, former governor of Utah and 1987 College graduate announced his intention to run for president.
It was perhaps this humility, more than anything else, that characterized Huntsman’s campaign.
His wife Mary Kaye wrote in a campaign email that the couple was “humbled” by their supporters after the announcement that he would run.
Huntsman said he was “humbled” when he received the endorsement of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in August.
He wrote in a campaign email that he was “so humbled” at the response he received in New Hampshire, the state in which he had staked his campaign, in early January.
And so it was again with humility that Huntsman bowed out of the race yesterday. “Mary Kaye and I are equally humbled and amazed at the outpouring of support we’ve received,” he wrote on his campaign website.
Huntsman’s campaign was an unlikely one from the start, overshadowed by that of Mitt Romney.
“Huntsman’s chances are tied tightly to Romney’s because the two are so similar: both successful businessmen who became popular moderate Republican governors, both from Mormon families,” wrote Political Science professor Rogers Smith in an email when Huntsman first announced his candidacy in June.
“At this point Huntsman is much less known, his campaign has much less money, and he is also perceived as more liberal, probably rightly — so he is unlikely to get the nomination over Romney unless Romney once again stumbles and no one else emerges.”
Romney did not stumble over the next seven months. He won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, while Huntsman came in last place among major candidates in the former and in third place in the latter.
“I’d say third place is a ticket to ride,” Huntsman had said last week after the New Hampshire primary, stating his desire to continue his campaign in South Carolina, which will hold its primary on Saturday.
But he could not escape the problems that had been plaguing his campaign from the start. Polling low in South Carolina, as well as nationwide, and running low on cash, he reconsidered his candidacy over the weekend. He dropped out of the race and endorsed his once-fiercest rival, Romney.
“Today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency,” he said in a speech on Monday. “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 Governor Mitt Romney.”
Smith wrote in another email after Huntsman announced his intention to withdraw from the race and endorse Romney that these were logical moves.
“By withdrawing, [Huntsman] helps a sharply divided GOP accept that Romney will be its nominee,” Smith wrote. “Romney is also the most electable and closest to Huntsman in his views, so Huntsman serves his party and his own positions through this choice. He never had a chance to win unless moderate Republicans decided he was preferable to Romney and turned to him en masse.”
Wharton junior and College Republicans president Laura Brown, a Daily Pennsylvanian staff member, didn’t find the move unexpected either.
“It wasn’t very surprising after [Huntsman’s] showing in New Hampshire,” she said. “He was third, but it was a pretty distant third.”
It was also “a pretty natural fit for Huntsman to endorse Romney,” she added. “They are fairly similar candidates.”
Romney issued a statement stating his appreciation for the endorsement. “Jon ran a spirited campaign based on unity not division, and love of country,” he said.
Once Huntsman is gone from the limelight, it may be the courteous, sensible and humble tone of his campaign that the public will remember.
Even in the speech with which Huntsman withdrew from the race, he said, “Today I call on each campaign to cease attacking each other and instead talk directly to the American people.”
While Huntsman was still running, Penn President Amy Gutmann commended him for promoting meaningful conversation. “He’s been true to his view about civic discourse.”
Smith, too, wrote that, “as predicted, [Huntsman] ran an intelligent, responsible campaign.”
Huntsman may have chosen an opportune time to withdraw from the race. Although it cannot be said that he quit while he was ahead, neither can it be argued that he was at the end of his line.
Just this weekend, The State — South Carolina’s largest newspaper — endorsed Huntsman. “What makes him attractive are the essential values that drive his candidacy: honor and old-fashioned decency and pragmatism,” it stated.
Because this endorsement was “a big boost,” Smith wrote, Huntsman “found the moment to suspend his campaign that put him in the best light, most assisting his party and his future.”
“Huntsman now goes out magnanimously, at a moment when he could claim reason to stay in, giving Romney and many other Republicans reason to be grateful to him in the future.”
Huntsman may have dropped out of this race, but his political career is likely far from over.
“In the long-term, I definitely think we’ll see him again,” Brown said. “It will be 2016 for him.”
Smith wrote that Huntsman’s chances this year were hurt by Romney’s popularity but that he may have another shot in the future.
“With Romney in the race and performing relatively well, this was not Huntsman’s time,” he wrote. “Suspending his campaign now increases the chances that his time will come.”
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