What Jon Huntsman did today is unusual in politics. Instead of playing out the string in South Carolina and then endorsing, he has thrown his support to Mitt Romney in advance of the primary. On one level, this is both a classy and a smart move. Huntsman has a reputation of being forthright; if he is going to endorse, why not do it when it matters? It will help Romney at the margins, of course, because Huntsman was a marginal candidate in South Carolina, but every vote will go to Romney and it could make a difference in a close election. And by endorsing now, Huntsman actually gives Romney something of value and stands at the head of what will soon be a long and forgotten parade.
But, as I said, it’s unusual for a candidate to endorse this quickly and in the thick of a primary contest where the outcome is still somewhat undecided. Some of this is usually personal: Primaries usually don’t make the hearts of candidates grow fonder. There have been specific reports of tension between Romney and Huntsman. I have no idea if these are true, but they seem logical: Same state, same religion, same ambition. So it makes me wonder more: What role, if any, did family or church politics play in speeding this endorsement?