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Huntsman Picks Up Big SC Newspaper Endorsement; Romney Gets Two

Conservative Christian leaders backed Rick Santorum for president on Saturday, but South Carolina voters reading the state's largest newspaper will find an endorsement Sunday for Jon Huntsman.

The State newspaper, breathing a bit of life into Huntsman's weak standing, wrote that Huntsman is the superior candidate because he is "a true conservative" but also "a realist" whose goal, like "technocrat" Mitt Romney, "is to get things done."

"The unhealthy demand for ideological purity obscures a hopeful fact about the GOP presidential field: There are actually two sensible, experienced grownups. And while Mr. Romney is far more appealing than any of the other choices, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is more principled, has a far more impressive resume and offers a significantly more important message," the editorial board wrote.

Describing itself as "the sensible center," The State editorial team says it disagrees with some of Huntsman's positions, including his support for private school vouchers. It adds that independents may not like his tax plan because it was endorsed by The Wall Street Journal editorial page. It also claims another reason to support Huntsman is because he won't "spout ridiculous superlatives" about President Obama

"President Obama simply has failed to lead or has led in the wrong direction, (Huntsman) argues. Why on earth would we want a candidate to say anything worse about his opponent? Explain why he’s wrong, and why you’re right, and let the voters choose," the endorsement reads.

While The State argues that Huntsman is "head and shoulders above the field on foreign policy," it adds that he isn't merely a partisan but someone who understands negotiation; has a well-defined set of core values but isn't too rigid to adapt; is honest, trustworthy and competent; and "has the temperament and judgment and experience to be taken seriously as the commander in chief and leader of the free world."

"We think Mr. Romney could demonstrate those characteristics. Mr. Huntsman already does," the board wrote.

But Hunstman probably shouldn't count on The State endorsement to push Huntsman over the edge. In the six-person contest, Hunstman is at the back of the pack while Romney is holding onto his lead. According to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, Romney earned 29 percent of the vote from surveyed Republican primary voters compared to 24 percent for Newt Gingrich, 15 percent for Ron Paul, 14 percent for Santorum, 6 percent for Rick Perry and 5 percent for Huntsman.

Romney also won two newspaper endorsements Sunday. Greenville News wrote that Romney is the "strongest" candidate and "best qualified to mount a serious campaign this fall." The Charlotte Observer said he has "remarkable business credentials" and unmatched executive experience.