Horizon PAC, the presidential campaign-in-waiting for former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, has hired Whit Ayres as its pollster.
“I think the Republican nominating contest is more wide open than at any time in my lifetime,” Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster, said in a email to the Fix. He praised Huntsman, who is currently serving as the U.S. Ambassador to China, as a “fresh face and a new conservative voice”.
Ayres has also pledged to poll for Huntsman if and when he decides to run for president, he said. Ayres has done polling for the likes of Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).
The addition of Ayres is the latest in a series of moves that suggest that decision is a foregone conclusion despite the fact that Huntsman has not said anything publicly about his interest in the race.
Ayres joins strategist John Weaver, who played a senior role on Sen. John McCain’s presidential bids, media consultant Fred Davis as well as state-based operatives in South Carolina and New Hampshire are all signed on to Horizon PAC — simply waiting for a “go” signal from Huntsman when he returns from China later this month.
Huntsman has already set up trips to South Carolina (on May 7) and New Hampshire (on May 21) that would seem to suggest he is all-in on the 2012 race.
While Huntsman has put together a formidable team, challenges remain. His service in the Obama Administration has already become an issue; the Daily Caller website reported on praise-filled letters that Huntsman sent to President Obama and President Clinton — a potentially problematic development for his presidential hopes.