He’s still the Ambassador to China for President Barack Obama, but Jon Hunstman is moving closer and closer to a run for the Republican nomination to run against his current boss.
The Horizon PAC, which is the organization acting on behalf of Ambassador Huntsman to spread the word about his potential candidacy, recently announced Peter Spaulding as its top New Hampshire advisor. Spaulding gained recognition as John McCain’s Campaign Chairman in 2000. He lost his bid to gain back his seat on the Governor’s Executive Council last year, losing in the primary to Dan St. Hilaire, who went on to win the general election. Spaulding then went on to win a seat on the Merrimack County Commission. Commissioner Spaulding has been involved in many Presidential campaigns dating back to Gerald Ford’s primary campaign against Ronald Reagan.
NH Journal has learned that another Commissioner is also helping lead the charge for Huntsman in New Hampshire – former State Commissioner of Employment Security Richard Brothers. Brothers was ostensibly fired by Governor Lynch amid allegations of wrongdoing and a very public investigation by Attorney General Kelly Ayotte – the same Kelly Ayotte now serving as New Hampshire’s new and popular United States Senator. Brothers was acquitted of the charges last year, though he admitted keeping poor records of his expenses during his time as Commissioner. Brothers and Spaulding grew to be close friends during McCain’s 2000 primary campaign, and Brothers hired Spaulding at Employment Security when Governor Craig Benson appointed him on his way out the door in 2004.
Unsurprisingly, both Spaulding and Brothers publicly supported Bill Binnie in his primary campaign for U.S. Senate, in what many viewed as a rebuke of Ayotte.
Another close friend of Spaulding and Brothers, Bill Grimm of Franklin, has also joined the Huntsman team and will help recruit veterans for Jon Hunstman when he likely begins his campaign in May. Grimm was also a McCain 2000 supporter.
Brothers has been making calls to the media and lining up key people to make positive remarks on behalf of Huntsman after the recent shellacking by Governor John Sununu regarding a potential Hunstman candidacy. The tone and timing of Sununu’s harsh comments, made in an interview with RealClearPolitics last week, most likely indicates that the Romney camp is concerned about Huntsman’s entry into the race. Sununu has been a close informal advisor for Romney since the 2008 primary campaign, and the former NH governor is known for being on top of his game while in attack mode, as he illustrated well in his (unsuccessful) attempt to stop Jack Kimball from winning the NHGOP Chairmanship. This early attack shows the peculiar concern with which the Beantown brain trust views fellow Mormon, former Utah governor, and businessman extraordinaire Jon Huntsman.
Reports have been surfacing about an early May Huntsman visit to Wayne Jennings’ group, the New Hampshire Cultural Awareness Diversity Council. Given Jennings’ remarks in Real Clear Politics earlier this week, the strategy for a Huntsman candidacy thus far seems clear: focus on undeclared voters. While on the surface some may think this is a winning strategy, even John McCain tied George W. Bush among Republicans in his stunning 2000 primary upset. Statistics show that only between 25 and 30 percent of undeclared voters will make up the total 2012 Republican primary electorate, and it is highly unlikely that Huntsman can win more than 50 percent of those voters in a crowded Republican field. Huntsman will need a big chunk of Republicans to have a shot of pulling off a McCain 2000-type victory in hopes of throwing the nomination fight on its head as the calendar turns to the more conservative South Carolina.
Time will tell how the Huntsman candidacy develops, but the Spaulding-Brothers-Grimm-Jenning team is working overtime to put a solid Granite State foundation in place.