Garn, in a Washington, D.C., news conference, denied he had any influence on Huntsman. "I had nothing to do with it. As the governor's chairman I was not in position to advise an opponent" during their recent trip together.
Garn bristled when reporters said they doubted that he and Huntsman could travel together without mentioning the governor's race. "I have walked that line for a month."
Also, while Huntsman was gone, several critical news reports were published about Huntsman's time in the Nixon White House and about early business dealings. While several Republicans said those reports did have an impact on Huntsman, Lillian Garrett, Huntsman's campaign manager, said they played no part in Huntsman's decision not to run.
"I'm extremely disappointed" about Huntsman's decision, said Dan Marriott, former U.S. congressman and Huntsman's campaign co-chairman. "But if a person doesn't want to be a candidate and go through the fires of campaigning, it's better to get out before he starts."
Despite Bangerter's and Huntsman's talk of uniting the Republican Party, Wilson thinks the party has been wounded by Huntsman's brief foray into politics.
"It's going to be very hard to unite the party," Wilson said. "Words alone won't do it. It will take a lot more than this act. I think a lot of the damage has already been done. There were words a couple of weeks ago about the governor running a failed campaign. I think the Republican Party is going to have a hard time stepping around that."
Ironically, Marriott agrees with Wilson that the Republican Party may not heal.
"I think it depends on Norm Bangerter and whether he can now open up to all parts of the party instead of his own closed group. The monkey is on his back now," Marriott said. Bangerter indirectly answered Marriott's concern when he said during the news conference that everyone is welcome in the party and that Huntsman supporters "have nothing to fear from Norm Bangerter."
In saying the party must unite, Huntsman added that his main goal in running for governor is to provide more and better jobs for Utahns. "More jobs expand the tax base and that means much needed relief for Utah's taxpayers and additional dollars for our children's education. The building of our economy and creating jobs is an will be far more improtant to me than the actual title of governor. I can bring in new jobs outside this race," he said.
Huntsman has already spent almost $300,000 on the race. He has spent $268,000 on TV advertisements, some of which were running as late as Tuesday night. He had opened a campaign headquarters, hired staff and gained $250,000 in pledges. He'd also loaned his fledgling campaign $100,000, money he hoped would be paid back.
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