Tampa, Florida (CNN) - In a confidential pair of memos circulated to donors this week, Jon Huntsman's campaign manager and pollster mapped out a nomination strategy that relies heavily on raising the former Utah governor's profile among primary voters and drawing contrasts with his "very weak" field of Republican opponents.
"Jon has put together one of the strongest campaign teams in the race and has a clear path to the nomination," wrote campaign manager Matt David in one of the memos. "As debate season ramps up and campaigns begin to hit the airwaves, we're confident that Jon's message and background will set him apart from the field."
The strategy memos were emailed to campaign donors on Tuesday by Huntsman Finance Chair Jeff Wright and later provided to CNN by a Republican source.
David wrote that "despite media-driven labels," Huntsman is not a moderate but rather "a conservative problem solver" with a sterling record of cutting taxes, supporting Second Amendment rights and opposing abortion.
He re-emphasized that the candidate's path to nomination depends on strong showings in three early primary states where Huntsman has "robust political teams": New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
The memos, aimed at boosting the spirits of campaign donors, come as Huntsman struggles to gain traction among Republican primary voters despite a flood of media attention following his recent return from China, where he served as United States Ambassador under President Barack Obama.
The campaign is also re-adjusting following the departure of Susie Wiles as campaign manager. David took over the position last month.
In the most recent CNN/ORC national survey of Republican voters, Huntsman registered at just 1 percent, falling behind nearly every other GOP candidate.
In a separate polling memo, Huntsman pollster Whit Ayres dismissed early national polls as "utterly useless" tools for predicting the Republican nominee. In August 2007, he noted, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson topped the field while the ultimate Iowa winner, Mike Huckabee, was stuck at 2 percent.
Ayres argued that poll numbers in early states are "unlikely to move" until the candidates hit the television and radio airwaves "for an extended period of time" and introduce themselves to the vast majority of voters. Huntsman has yet to run an advertisement.
The pollster also shared internal data from New Hampshire and Florida showing that a majority voters there considered Huntsman's experience in China under Obama an asset. More voters viewed his service as a patriotic duty instead of a partisan betrayal, Ayres said.
In his strategy memo, David also took aim at Huntsman's opponents, training his fire on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has not entered the race but is expected to.
Romney, he wrote, has a problematic record on health care reform and his "penchant for making gaffes and flip-flops is well known and he has struggled to display a relatable, authentic persona to the public."
As for Pawlenty, "his stumbles and lack of movement in Iowa or New Hampshire are causing the media to begin writing off his chances, further harming his ability to raise money or gain traction." (Huntsman's critics would likely lob the same charge at him.)
Bachmann's "positions on various issues and perceived weakness in a general election will make it extremely difficult for her to win the nomination," David wrote.
And despite a strong jobs creation record in Texas, Perry has little time to build a strong campaign operation in the early primary states and faces "serious vulnerabilities on electability."
David compared Huntsman to Bill Clinton in 1992 and John McCain in 2000, two long shot candidates who rocketed to the front of the pack when it counted.