The Washington Post

Is Jon Huntsman’s team the problem?

As The Post reported yesterday, “Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman’s (R) presidential campaign manager, Susie Wiles, is resigning and will be replaced by communications director Matt David, according to the campaign.” Reading between the lines (“Susie has served the campaign well and was vital in getting it off the ground in such a short time-frame”), one could reasonably deduce that her departure was not voluntary.

There are two ways of looking at the shake-up. One is that when a campaign doesn’t live up to the candidate’s expectations, someone has to take the blamed. In this case, political consultant John Weaver convinced Huntsman that there was a path to his nomination. We’ve seen no evidence of this. But 3 percent in the polls? Plainly, it’s time to get a new campaign manager!

The other way of reading this is as an assertion of Weaver’s control over the day-to-day operation of the campaign. Weaver and David both worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign (until Weaver got passed over as campaign chief). Also in the Huntsman camp is media strategist Fred Davis, another McCain ‘08 veteran. If Weaver wants to keep a cohesive group going (don’t let Huntsman believe the campaign is a waste of money!), then he may have been inclined to remove Wiles, who came from Rick Scott’s Florida gubernatorial campaign and has no ties to Weaver.

Will this make a difference? Sometime a great candidate is weighted down by poor staff and needs to shake things up (as Ronald Reagan did when he fired John Sears in the 1980 campaign). This is not one of those times. Weaver, Davis and David have signed on to a campaign without grassroots support, a candidate who must be entirely inauthentic if he wants to have any shot at winning, and an avalanche of bad reviews in the conservative media. As for the other purpose of the campaign -- enabling the candidate to win -- that remains as remote a goal as ever.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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