This morning former Utah governor and ex China ambassador John Huntsman pulled his name from the Republican hat of candidates for president, throwing his support behind Mitt Romney as the remaining hopefuls prepare to debate tonight in Myrtle Beach.

“This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worthy of this critical time in our nation's history,” Huntsman said as he suspended his campaign.

Monday’s debate, which is being sponsored by South Carolina Republicans, Fox News Channel and The Wall Street Journal, will focus on the economy – a key issue for former Massachusetts governor Romney as he looks to deliver a knock-out punch in the upcoming South Carolina primary on January 21.

A Fox News survey released today shows Romney continues to hold a substantial lead over the field with 40 percent of the vote, followed by Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Ron Paul.

The trailing candidates hope socially conservative voters in South Carolina will swing momentum, but Romney sits in position to secure the GOP nod with another strong showing.

Before the Iowa caucuses, Brookings Institute Senior Fellow William Galston said that “if Romney can get past South Carolina without a credible alternative emerging, he’s the nominee.”

Tonight’s debate will be followed by a debate on Thursday night in Charleston sponsored by CNN and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.