Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a pro-life advocate who failed to gain much in the way of traction for his bid to get the GOP nod to replace pro-abortion President Barack Obama, will drop out of the campaign on Monday.
Huntsman did not participate in the Iowa caucuses and came in third place in the New Hampshire primary despite spending more time in the Granite State than almost any other candidate. After the disappointing finish and the lack of significant national support providing him the financing and grassroots support necessary to compete in South Carolina, Florida and beyond, Huntsman has chosen to leave the race.
In getting out of the race he asked for other candidates to stop negative attacks.
“Only bold ideas will get us to where we need to be…This campaign needs to be driven by those ideas,” he said. Huntsman condemned the “onslaught of negative personal attacks” and called on the campaigns to quit attacking each other.
Huntsman endorsed Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has been campaigning on pro-life themes and pressing jobs and the economy. Romney on the Iowa caucus vote by a narrow eight vote margin over Rick Santorum and followed up the victory with a double digit win in New Hampshire. Polls show Romney leading in both South Carolina, by a single digit margin, and Florida, by a much larger percentage.
“Today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency…It’s time for our party to unite around Mitt Romney,” he said.
Huntsman officially backed Romney, “Despite our differences and the space between us on some of the issues.”
Huntsman also pushed a pro-life position during the race, including saying he would veto any Congressional budget that allows for taxpayer funding of the Planned Parenthood abortion business.
Last year, standing in the shadow of the famous Statute of Liberty as his former boss Ronald Reagan did before him, Huntsman launched his campaign for the White House.
“For the first time in our history, we are about to pass down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got,” he said. “This is totally unacceptable and totally un-American.”
“And it need not, must not, will not be our permanent condition! We will not be the first American generation that lets down the next generation,” Huntsman continued. “What we need now is leadership that trusts in our strength. Leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems, but rather looks to local solutions in our cities, towns and states. Leadership that knows we need more than hope, leadership that knows we need answers”
Huntsman saidthere should be no “truce” when it comes to abortion.
“I do not believe the Republican party should focus only on our economic life — to the neglect of our human life,” he said. “That is a trade we should not make. If Republicans ignore life, the deficit we will face is one that is much more destructive. It will be a deficit of the heart and of the soul.”
Huntsman told attendees, “I came today not to give a political speech, but to introduce you to myself and my family.”
But he talked about his pro-life record in a way that he hoped would endear him to social issues voters who may distrust the man who served as the ambassador to China in the Obama administration and who many voters see as too moderate to become the GOP nominee. Saying he “supported and signed every pro-life bill” he received, he talked about how he signed a trio of pro-life bills in February 2009 that the Utah legislature approved — including legislation to make second-trimester abortions illegal, a measure to allow women to know about the pain their unborn children will feel during an abortion, and a bill that would create a legal defense fund to pay for litigation related to lawsuit abortions advocates file against state legislation.
“As governor of Utah I signed every pro-life bill that came to my desk,” Hunstman told the crowd. “I signed the bill that made second-trimester abortions illegal, and increased the penalty for doing so. I signed the bill to allow women to know the pain an abortion causes an unborn child. I signed the bill requiring parental permission for abortion. I signed the bill that would trigger a ban on abortions in Utah if Roe v. Wade was overturned.”
Huntsman has also lived out his pro-life views in that he has seven children, two of whom were from international adoptions. He shared the story with the conference participants.
In 1999, the Huntsman family adopted Gracie Mei from Yangzhou, China. She was a little girl who had been abandoned in a vegetable market. The path to adoption began when Huntsman’s wife Mary Kaye volunteered in a Catholic orphanage while they were living in Tien Mu, Taiwan. After they returned to the U.S., Mary Kaye continued to research adoptions and convinced Jon to start the process.
While attending a Christmas tree benefit auction she bought a tree dedicated to adoption. When the vendor asked her what to name it, her kids suggested the name for the new sister they hoped to someday have, Gracie Mei. Mary Kaye told the vendor that name at 8:15 p.m. and, when the Huntsman family returned home, there was a message received at 8:15 p.m. from the adoption agency notifying the family they had a found a child for the family.
“Gracie Mei likes to tell that story and when asked who found her in the vegetable market, she simply replies Jesus,” said Huntsman to “awws” and applause. He continued, “There is something more essential than politics and that is life, specifically a child’s life.”
“I can’t imagine how much poorer the world would be without Gracie and her younger sister Asha, who’s adopted from India. … [My wife] Mary Kay and I give thanks to those two mothers … for valuing their daughters lives enough so they could become our daughters,” he said.
The Huntsmans also adopted Asha Bharati from Gujarat, India in 2006.