Huntsman rules out third-party bid
Politics • Statement likely to end speculation about an alternative road for former Utah governor.
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Petersborough, N.H. • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Monday he would not seek a third-party bid for the White House if his race for the Republican nomination falls short.

"I'm not running as an independent," Huntsman said in answer to a question by The Salt Lake Tribune in this New Hampshire hamlet. "I don't know how many times I have to say that."

Huntsman previously had been somewhat coy about his options should he lose this key primary state, saying only that he's running as a Republican and that he plans to win. His answer Monday marked the most definitive answer that he would not seek to run an independent White House campaign.

Pundits have theorized that Huntsman — who has been in the back of the polls so far — might opt for a third-party run and could siphon off independents from the Republican nominee and President Barack Obama.

Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, a board member of Americans Elect, which is seeking to draft a third-party ticket, said recently that she hopes Huntsman jumps in.

"I would hope he would do it, frankly," she told Politico. "He's someone that I would support."

Huntsman also dismissed news out Monday that his former campaign manager, Susan Wiles, had endorsed rival Mitt Romney. Wiles officially resigned from Huntsman's bid a month into the campaign but a public rift later with chief strategist John Weaver led to the change in command of the campaign.

"That's all political gamesmanship," Huntsman said when asked about Wiles' Romney endorsement.

Wiles, in a statement released by the Romney camp, said that as the race has proceeded, she's observed the candidates and only Romney stands out from the rest.

"Governor Romney is a conservative businessman who knows what it takes to turn our economy around," Wiles said.

tburr@sltrib.com