As you probably already know, Jon Huntsman will drop out of the race for the Republican nomination and endorse Mitt Romney. This – combined with recent polls showing Romney with a healthy lead on all the other candidates in South Carolina – means that this race will be all but wrapped up by February.
Huntsman, who was never really a factor in either debates or the early primary states, will leave the race with more dignity than say … Rick Perry. This is the case for no other reason than the expectations on him were so low from the beginning.
Huntsman’s future within the Republican Party is not clear. His endorsement doesn’t change the party dynamic much or move the polls since his 4% of support is likely to spread to other candidates evenly rather than head straight for Mitt Romney’s camp.
However, his departure does bring up some important issues about the remaining endorsements that are out there for the GOP. The two remaining GOP heavyweights that haven’t endorsed anyone yet are Herman Cain and Sarah Palin, both of whom are not running, but still have substantial support and political capital within the Tea Party conservative base of the GOP. A constituency that Mitt Romney will carry BUT, whose enthusiastic support he could definitely use some help with.
Earlier this week Todd Palin announced that HE was supporting Newt Gingrich, which is easy to interpret as Momma Palin’s support of the former Speaker through other means. Palin paid lip service to her husband’s independence in a Fox interview later in the week saying that her husband went “Rogue” in his endorsement of Gingrich then turned right around and praised the former speaker for being able to connect with regular folks.
Since Sarah Palin is on the FOX News payroll she is probably prevented from openly endorsing anyone except for the final GOP nominee, but it’s pretty clear who’s wearing the moccasins in that family. Cain on the other hand has been particularly mum about who he will endorse. He will make an ‘unconventional’ endorsement on January 19th right before the South Carolina primary, but many assume he’ll just support the eventual nominee instead of chose a candidate. Cain’s fall from grace was pretty spectacular, but his on-stage charm and passion would be a boost to anyone else making a last minute stab at Mitt Romney.
The only question is: Will that description fit anyone after Romney wins South Carolina?