MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Jon Huntsman Jr. dropped out of the Republican presidential race Monday and endorsed Mitt Romney, but not before firing one last shot at the rest of the field, accusing them of running a race "not worthy of the American people."
The parting shot was in line with the rest of Mr. Huntsman's campaign, which was defined by his criticism of fellow Republicans who were trying too hard, he argued, to win over the party's conservative voters, rather than appealing to a middle ground.
"This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people, and not worthy of this critical time in our nation's history," he said as he dropped out of the race.
As a former governor of Utah and then as the U.S. ambassador to China for President Obama, Mr. Huntsman laid claim to both domestic and foreign policy experience that should have given him a boost.
But he proved to have little appeal to Republican voters. He won less than 1 percent support of Iowa caucus voters, and never bothered to campaign there, focusing instead on New Hampshire where he took third place with nearly 17 percent of the vote.
Exit polling showed him winning the vast majority of his support from Democrats or independents who voted in the "open" Republican primary. Among self-identified Republicans, he won just 10 percent of the vote.
His exit leaves Mr. Romney's left flank empty, but those on the conservative side are still fighting to emerge as the chief alternative to Mr. Romney.
Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who was campaigning elsewhere in the state and didn't appear with Mr. Huntsman at his announcement, issued a statement accepting the endorsement.
"Jon ran a spirited campaign based on unity not division, and love of country. I appreciate his friendship and support," Mr. Romney said.
Rick Santorum, one of those conservatives fighting for the nomination, said he wasn't surprised by Mr. Huntsman endorsing Mr. Romney.
"Moderates are backing moderates," the former Pennsylvania senator said.
Mr. Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are all hoping to emerge from South Carolina's primary on Saturday as the chief alternative to Mr. Romney.
Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Mr. Perry have both signaled they need to do well in South Carolina to continue, while Mr. Santorum said he's looking forward to February when he can evaluate how to shape his campaign for the rest of the long calendar.
In one black mark, none of them managed to make it onto the Virginia ballot.
Mr. Paul, meanwhile, has an operation he says is built for the long run. He and Mr. Romney are the only two candidates to secure spots on the ballot for Virginia's March 6 primary, and Mr. Paul already is working for votes in Nevada's Feb. 4 caucuses.
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