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Gingrich collects support from former Perry and Huntsman backers

 

Updated 6:16 p.m.

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- After winning the support of former rival Rick Perry this morning, Newt Gingrich's endorsement momentum continued among members of South Carolina's political establishment as he picked up former supporters of Jon Huntsman and Perry, along with few influential GOP fundraisers.

Richard Quinn, Huntsman's top South Carolina strategist who worked for John McCain in 2008, is endorsing Gingrich along with his son Rick, a state senator who had also endorsed Huntsman. The senior Quinn had also worked as an adviser to Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign, an aspect of his resume Gingrich may soon highlight.

Mike Campbell, the son of former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell, who also backed Huntsman, announced his support of Gingrich today. Bob McAlister, a former chief of staff to compbell who had aided the Huntsman and McCain campaigns, also backed Gingrich.

Several influential members of the South Carolina business community are also rallying behind Gingrich today including two former Huntsman backers: businessman John Rainey and Gayle Averyt, former chairman of the Colonial life insurance company. Former Tanzania ambassador Bob Royall, another bundler for Bush and McCain, also endorsed Gingrich.

Huntsman exited the race on Monday, and endorsed Mitt Romney -- not Gingrich -- in the GOP primary.

Those business leaders, as well as several of their friends and colleagues, met with Gingrich last week in an effort to coalesce around a candidate as they had done in 2000, when they rallied around George W. Bush, and 2008, when they endorsed McCain. They also considered Rick Santorum, who also spoke with the group last week.

Gingrich also nabbed a major former Perry backer, South Carolina state House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who was part of a 20-plus group of influential Republicans who endorsed Perry in late October. Another Perry supporter, South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney, said today that he did not "anticipate endorsing any other candidate between now and Saturday."

While Gingrich seemed to collect up the most endorsements today, one influential Republican joined the Romney camp: David Wilkins, a former state House speaker and ambassador to Canada during George W. Bush's administration. (Wilkins' brother Billy, a prominent lawyer here, is a Gingrich supporter.)

Wilkins told NBC News today that he met Romney and his wife six years ago during a breakfast in Boston with other U.S. ambassadors.