After running attack ads, Huntsman decries ‘toxicity’

As expected, Jon Huntsman left the race for the Republican presidential nomination this morning, but as he “suspended” his campaign, the former governor took some time to decry candidate “attacks.”

That would be the same Jon Huntsman whose campaign said recently that Ron Paul had ideas out of “The Twilight Zone” and whose super PAC ran hundreds of thousands of dollars in New Hampshire ads calling Mitt Romney a “chameleon.”

But Huntsman clearly wants to exit the race as he entered it, viewed as a candidate almost too good and too pure for presidential politics.

“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. This is the most important election of our lifetime,” Huntsman said in Myrtle Beach. “The current toxic forum of our political discourse does not help our cause.”

Reasonable people can certainly have a conversation about the impact and level of campaign vitriol — I’d argue the 2012 race for the GOP nomination has been mild to a surprising degree — but it’s awfully convenient for Huntsman to suddenly discover the importance of the high ground.

He has, after all, spent month running plenty of negative ads — many of which, incidentally, Huntsman is now trying to hide from public view.

The Salt Lake Tribune published a DNC oppo dump this morning, noting months of rhetorical Huntsman shots at Mitt Romney, including attacks on the frontrunner’s flip-flops, accusations that Romney is “unelectable” and lacking a “core,” questions about whether voters can trust Romney to keep his word, and calling Romney’s record on job creation “abysmal.”

Maybe Huntsman isn’t the ideal spokesperson for condemning “negative attacks”?

As for why Huntsman would endorse Romney after levying so many attacks at him — some as recently as a few days ago — Kevin Drum’s take sounds right to me: “[A]fter the savaging he’s given Romney, turning around so quickly sure does make him look like a guy who was just throwing lots of anti-Romney crap against the wall whether he believed it or not.”

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.