Inside the (collapsing) Jon Huntsman campaign

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In a confidential memo circulated to donors this week, Jon Huntsman’s campaign manager “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,” CNN reports.

A separate polling memo dismissed early national polls as “utterly useless” tools for predicting the Republican nominee.

Meanwhile, a “blistering internal feud” in the Huntsman campaign “is erupting into public view, with dueling camps trading charges and an exodus of campaign officials,” Politico reports. A longtime family friend says that Huntsman’s wife and father “fret that his presidential prospects have been threatened by the turmoil — and he places the blame on John Weaver, Huntsman’s controversial chief strategist.”

This is a shame, because Jon Huntsman may be the best-on-paper candidate the Republicans have.  Here are some excerpts from the story:

A blistering internal feud in the Jon Huntsman presidential campaign is erupting into public view … [A] longtime family friend tells POLITICO that Huntsman’s wife and father fret that his presidential prospects have been threatened by the turmoil – and he places the blame on John Weaver, Huntsman’s … chief strategist. Huntsman himself is so worried about the ‘drama,’ as he calls it, that he’s taken a hands-on role in the restructuring, in hopes of rebounding from early missteps before it’s too late to improve his bottom-of-the-pack standing. ‘I look forward to a future of less drama, more money and increasing contrasts with my opponents. We can win this thing,’ Huntsman wrote in an email to the friend just hours after the resignation of his first campaign manager, Susie Wiles, became public July 21. …

“The recipient of that email – David Fischer, who has known Huntsman since the 1980s and later worked for his father – shared with POLITICO behind-the-scenes details about Huntsman’s stumbling start. … Fischer himself recently left the campaign after being asked to give up his operations post by Weaver, who the campaign said was acting at the behest of the candidate. … Weaver declined to answer questions, and the campaign instead issued a statement targeting Fischer. ‘Dave Fischer tried to threaten the campaign regarding his participation in this story and we refused to cooperate with him,’ said spokesman Tim Miller. ‘As a volunteer staff member he attempted to usurp authority, asked inappropriate questions about junior staff and was rightly asked to leave by Governor Huntsman. His statements about this campaign are untrue. The fact that he would be willing to undermine Governor Huntsman in this way says everything you need to know about his character, his credibility, and whether he has the Governor’s best interests at heart.’ …

“The problem for Huntsman, of course, is that all this high-decibel public squabbling undercuts his main rationale for winning the GOP nomination — that the former Utah governor offers the level-headed competence and executive experience needed to unseat President Obama. Not only that, but voters might wonder how he’d bring civility to the public discourse – another Huntsman promise – if he can’t do the same inside the four walls of his campaign headquarters. Fischer, 63, has been friends with Huntsman, 51, since the two served as young aides in the Reagan White House. After leaving Reagan in 1985, Fischer went to work for Huntsman’s father, Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., as an executive at the elder Huntsman’s Utah-based chemical company. … Recently, Fischer reached out to POLITICO to discuss his concerns with the campaign – a sort of public intervention. He initially insisted that he only be identified in any story as a ‘campaign insider.’ But after reading a RealClearPolitics story Sunday that featured unnamed Huntsman officials calling him a disruptive force, he was infuriated and agreed to go on the record. … Huntsman’s father and wife, Mary Kaye, are worried about the direction of the campaign. ‘Why isn’t he on any of the talk shows yet?’ his wife asked in June. ‘Why isn’t he on “The View?”‘”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.