Huntsman adviser calls for aggressive South Carolina push
December 31st, 2011
11:49 AM ET
11 years ago

Huntsman adviser calls for aggressive South Carolina push

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - One of Jon Huntsman's chief strategists is calling for an aggressive campaign in South Carolina, even if the former Utah governor falls short of winning the New Hampshire primary - the centerpiece of his nomination strategy.

Richard Quinn, a top Huntsman consultant and veteran South Carolina Republican operative, sent a memo to campaign manager Matt David and senior adviser John Weaver this week calling for a robust effort in the Palmetto State.

"Exceeding expectations in (New Hampshire) can trigger a critical burst of momentum for Governor Huntsman in South Carolina if we act quickly," Quinn wrote in the private memo obtained by CNN. "He has not yet been well-defined here and his strong conservative record will play well – particularly in the conservative upstate."

The memo, which includes a detailed voter ID strategy and county-by-county turnout model, does not define what "exceeding expectations" in New Hampshire might be - though most Republicans agree that Huntsman needs to win the state or at least surge into a strong second place finish to soldier on.

A CNN/TIME/ORC poll released this week had Huntsman at 9% in New Hampshire, putting him a distant fourth behind Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich.

In South Carolina, Huntsman is an afterthought. While there have been few reliable recent polls in the state, he has consistently registered in the low single digits.

Huntsman has focused most of his campaign resources in New Hampshire, but has kept a four-person staff in South Carolina in the event that his campaign moves forward.

Quinn, who advised Arizona Sen. John McCain's successful 2008 campaign in South Carolina, says in his memo that Huntsman can follow a similar path to victory: remaining competitive in the socially conservative and evangelical-heavy upstate, and running stronger in the midlands and along the coast where fiscal concerns are more important.

"Gov. Huntsman has the flexibility to get his conservative message out in the Greenville and Spartanburg market while also devoting the necessary time and resources along the coast and in the midlands focusing on his economic record," Quinn wrote, calling Huntsman a "natural fit" for the coastal counties that racked up big margins for McCain in 2008.

The comparison is not without flaws. While McCain and Huntsman might share an appeal in moderate-leaning swaths of the state, McCain had previously run for president in South Carolina in 2000, and then worked the state politically for years before his successful primary bid in 2008.

Quinn asks for "heavy advertising" across the state and six total field offices - requests that might stretch Huntsman's thin campaign budget.

His turnout prediction is also optimistic. Quinn estimates that 500,000 voters will show up for the Republican primary.

A pool of voters that large would presumably include a heavy dose of independent voters, which could boost Huntsman's showing.

Republican operatives in the state, however, have forecast a turnout somewhere between 400,000 and 450,000.

In plotting a message, Quinn calls for direct attacks against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is quietly making a play to win the state after losing it badly in 2008.

"Romney's record on health care will hurt him in the upstate; particularly if we are able to get the word out about his out of control health care spending," Quinn wrote. "Polling shows voters care about government spending, and this is a winning issue in (South Carolina)."

Filed under: 2012 • Jon Huntsman • South Carolina
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. sensible

    Huntsman might as well forget it. He is way too 'normal' for the whacko teabag, reptili'con' crowd!! He will never get nominated by those freaks!!

    December 31, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. sensible

    Richard Quinn just wants more money. He doesn't want Huntsman to quit early and go home with all his cash!

    December 31, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    He's the ONLY republican I've seen since Ike that I would consider voting FOR. CONSIDER ..............

    December 31, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  4. wwf

    He is the only one that could beat Obama. I would vote for him in a heartbeat. I will not vote for any of the other idiots.

    December 31, 2011 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  5. vic , nashville ,tn

    Conservative , smart , who can beat Obama then vote for Jon Huntsman

    December 31, 2011 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  6. Gemini Girl

    Have to agree! Jon Huntsmann is way too normal for the Repub. I plan to vote for the current president, but I would consider Huntsmann if he were to run again 2016. I think the fact that there are so many clown candidates has muddied the water for him this time around. Too bad.

    December 31, 2011 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. Axl

    McCain won the SC primary and he was a moderate, If Huntsman does even marginally well in NH, he can make it to SC and contend. He is the only canidate currently running the Dems do not want to face. Bachmann is impolding and Newt is showing his true colors, Huntsman just has to hang in there cause most GOPer don't trust rich uncle pennybags Mitt Romney, the ramblings of Ron Paul, Preacher Santorum, or the Dunce from Texas Rick Perry.

    December 31, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  8. Logic in LA

    Probably a smart move given that he hasn't had his time in the spotlight yet.

    December 31, 2011 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Annie, Atlanta

    And what will this gain him in a party who wants to hear their candidates spew hate? Another 1%, maybe? Getting him from 2% to 3%. His party has taken an extremist right turn, and left him behind years ago. He would have been better off running as an independent. It's a shame that intelligence and experience are something to be mocked for the GOP.

    December 31, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. Bravo

    I get difficulties to understand Huntsman maths. He is not engaged in Iowa. That is off. He is not leading in New Hampshire, thus he won't win there. He wants to be aggressive in South Carolina, what is the use? He is not leading in Florida either. Why can't he call it a try and take his ball and head home!

    December 31, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. politics as usual

    It seems to me that Huntman's candidacy is dead in the water, so why is he focusing on Romney, as if tearing him down is going to help any? It just makes him look petty and small (jealous, actually) and will do nothing to further his career. I would much rather hear what makes HIM special, but maybe he's not. Message to Huntsman: you can't fight a tidal wave.

    December 31, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Greg

    This is Huntsman's way of saying, "I have failed horribly in New Hampshire, so let's start to talk up South Carolina." Or maybe it is Quinn's way of trying to keep his job a few weeks longer....

    December 31, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. shoegazer

    sensible: You beat me to it.No Hope Huntsman is far to moderate for the neo-fascist wing of the GOP,and unfortunately,they're the ones who seem to dictate policy these days.

    December 31, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. Veronica Moynihan

    Huntsman is way too normal to be a republican.

    December 31, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |

    At 9% in NH after putting all of his chips there. He may as well watch as the GOBP wingnut/teabagger trainwreck implosion continues full speed ahead.

    December 31, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |