Evangelicals Rally Behind Santorum; Huntsman Out

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says he is dropping out of the GOP presidential race and endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Huntsman said he believes Romney to be the "best equipped" to defeat President Obama. He also called on the remaining GOP presidential contenders to drop the television attack ads.

"At its core, the Republican Party is a party of ideas, but the current toxic form of our political discourse does not help our cause," he said.

Monday's announcement comes one week before the South Carolina primary.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry admonished voters to consider soberly which candidate would be best to lead the nation.

"I ask you to think about the kind of leader you want to preside over our nation," Perry said.

"Who will be faithful to your values?" he asked. "Who will see the job of the president as that of a faithful servant of the American people and to the God that created us?"

Click play for Jennifer Wishon's updated report followed by comments from Paul Bonicelli, former administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The governor pleased the crowd, but Texas winds were blowing at the back of a different candidate this weekend.

Saturday, more than 150 evangelical, business, and conservative leaders met outside of Houston, and after three tries, a majority voted to back former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

"The fact that they went through that process -- a difficult one at that -- and were able to form some sort of consensus is, in some respects, a very loud statement that there is a growing consensus," Santorum said.

Santorum also picked up an endorsement from bestselling author Erick Metaxas.

"It is utterly clear that in the Rust Belt with Reagan Democrats, with working-class Americans, Rick Santorum is far more electable than Mitt Romney," Metaxas declared.

A sampling of Christian activists here revealed there's still time for candidates to change minds.

"I still have a big decision to make," said South Carolina voter Deb Marks, who originally supported Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

"I'm still looking to see who will convince me they will carry on the things that I believe in as a voter," she said.

South Carolina has picked every Republican nominee since 1980, when they took a chance on Ronald Reagan.

"The next week is going be tough for them," South Carolina resident Phillip Bowers predicted. "They're going have to work, and they're going have to show us what they're made of."

Aware of that reality, GOP presidential candidates will be spending the next six days traveling throughout the state.

Today they're here in Myrtle Beach for the first of two critical debates before primary voters cast their ballots on Saturday.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.