Huntsman chief outlines strategy in memo to donors
August 3rd, 2011
06:01 PM ET
11 years ago

Huntsman chief outlines strategy in memo to donors

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.

Filed under: 2012 • Jon Huntsman
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. The Clear Thinking Independet Voter

    If it walks like duck & quacks like a duck – IT'S A DUCK.

    Huntsman is a moderate. That's the only appeal he's got. He is the Republican's version of [answer to] Barack Obama. The former Obama ambassador to China seems:

    1) Intelligent, thoughtful
    2) Cultured, genteel, statesmanlike
    3.) A solid family man with a loving wife and adoring children
    4.) Of a civil disposition; not terribly given to wide, baseless, political attacks

    His strategy is to be the ONLY other adult in the room besides President Obama. His biggest difference will be he doesn't have a tan.

    Independets are smart though.

    i) after the murder of George Tiller [or Kansa's backdoor attempts to us zoning regulations to take away a woman's right to chose] I don't independents want to hear much about the cultural war issues like abortion.
    ii) after the murder of the folks in Arizona [you know, Palin's "crosshairs" & "reload" rantings] I don't think independents want to hear much about a Huntsman embrace of the NRA or 2nd Ammedment remedies.
    iii) in an envrionment where tax breaks for the rich – – the GOP-labelled "job creators" [ha, ha!] – – have gotten tax cuts for their jets and yahchts, I doubt the Independents want to hear more of the Republican embrace of this failed voodoo economic policy.

    Every person who comes into the Oval Office has to adjust to the role and the political climate. Huntsman would be no different. I'd rather stick with President Obama especially now that he has a complete understanding of how underhanded, his political opponents will be.

    August 3, 2011 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  2. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared war on US!

    He's just practicing for 2016. And watch Hunts Man carefully; he is by no means a "moderate", he just appears that way compared to the rightwing extreme radical teatards. He still cares only for the greedy, not the needy. And as a GWB-like messaround/messup son of a chemical fortune, you can bet your last dollar he's a corrupt corporatist cultist.

    August 3, 2011 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Huntsman mght be pretty smart. But, he ain't too bright. The current crop of Republicans will never grant him the nomination. It ain't too hard to figure out. Maybe he's runnin' for VP. Yeah, that's it.

    August 3, 2011 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  4. Matthew

    He should have rocketed to the defence of teenage girls when they were getting raped by 50 year old freaks, Instead he did nothing, Yea this is leadership, He knew & did nothing, He was the head of state for Utah, can you spell C O W A R D ??????

    August 3, 2011 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  5. Randy, San Francisco

    Thank you Tea Party hobbits and social conservative wingnuts in the GOP for ignoring the one candidate who can give President Obama a real challenge. Stick to your ideological purity and lose the election. Moderate and independent voters will be turned off by your Tea Party/social conservative approved candidate.

    August 3, 2011 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  6. thomas

    I hope he receives a position in the obama cabinet , he's the only GOP with any intelligence , sensibility and spine.

    He knows foreign policy !

    August 3, 2011 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |