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By Wolf Blitzer, CNN
(CNN) – Jon Huntsman is now a former Republican presidential candidate. And, like former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who dropped out after a poor showing in the Iowa straw poll last summer, Huntsman is endorsing Mitt Romney.
Never mind that Huntsman said some negative things about Romney during his unsuccessful campaign. Pawlenty had coined the phrase “Obamney care” when trying to link Romney’s Massachusetts health care law to President Barack Obama’s health care law. But Pawlenty quickly forgot about that and supported Romney on the campaign trail.
Now, Huntsman will do the same.
This happens in primaries all the time. I’ve covered presidential politics long enough to know that that’s the way it is.
George H.W. Bush blasted Ronald Reagan’s “voodoo economics” only to endorse him later – and become his vice president.
Four years ago in the GOP primaries, Romney was critical of Arizona Sen. John McCain before dropping out and strongly endorsing him. Now, McCain is campaigning for Romney.
And don’t forget the bitter words that erupted four years ago between Obama and Hillary Clinton when they were fighting for the closely contested Democratic presidential nomination. As soon as Obama won, Clinton was on board. She’s now his secretary of state.
The Huntsman endorsement could be important in South Carolina if the primary Saturday is really close. If, for example, Newt Gingrich were to surge this week following the two GOP debates and close in on Romney, the Huntsman moderate Republican voters could help Romney go over the top.
Romney and Huntsman had divided up the so-called moderate Republican vote. Now, Romney has most of it alone.
The same is not true for the socially conservative, tea party vote. They now have Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Ron Paul to divide it up. And that is good news for Romney. He might be in trouble if he faced only one of them.
But Romney does have another advantage in South Carolina: He has Gov. Nikki Haley, a tea party favorite, on his side.
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