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Huntsman backs strategist amid reports of campaign chaos

August 04, 2011|By James Oliphant
  • GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman addresses the Salem, N.H., Chamber of Commerce.
GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman addresses the Salem, N.H., Chamber… (Jim Cole / Associated Press )

Jon Huntsman offered a vote of confidence Thursday on his top campaign strategist amid reports that his flagging presidential effort is plagued by in-fighting and disorganization.

Speaking to reporters in Salem, N.H., Huntsman defended the work of John Weaver, the target of an incendiary article in Politico that aired complaints about Weaver by a former member of Huntsman’s inner circle.

“John Weaver is a critically important part of our team," Huntsman said, according to The Huffington Post. “He's our strategist, has been from day one, and he will be. He's a great friend and he's indispensable to the campaign.”

Politico spoke to David Fischer, a former top advisor and old friend of Huntsman’s who was elbowed out as part of a campaign shake-up. Fischer charged that Weaver’s aggressive management style was destroying morale in the Huntsman camp, suggesting that it led to the departure of campaign manager Susie Wiles and other aides.

Fischer handed over a personal email from Huntsman in which the former Utah governor maintained that “Goodness will overcome the temporary difficulties and early turf-protecting within the campaign.”

Weaver was a former strategist to John McCain’s presidential bid, but was forced out after McCain’s bid in 2007 had trouble getting off the ground. Huntsman, too, has had difficulty finding a tail wind since he launched his campaign in June.

The Republican’s presidential bid has at times had an odd makeshift, making-it-up-as-we-go-along quality since before he declared. His compromised position as President Obama’s ambassador to China meant that for months, supporters attempted to build a campaign platform for him without his involvement.

His rollout in New Jersey in June was replete with missteps (some of which are still occurring)—and Huntsman has had trouble locking onto a resonant message, or a coherent rationale for his candidacy ever since. Much of his strategy, it appears, was premised on Mitt Romney’s weaknesses as a national candidate, but that approach has yet to yield benefits to Huntsman’s campaign.

Huntsman’s camp has dismissed Fischer, who worked with Huntsman in the Reagan White House, as disgruntled over the small role he ended up playing in the candidate’s day-to-day operations.

A story earlier in the week by Real Clear Politics suggested Fischer was the one dragging down staff morale at Huntsman's campaign headquarters in Orlando.

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