Chief strategist John Weaver circulated a four-page memo to Jon Huntsman’s campaign team before last night’s debate to manage expectations (for themselves and Romney) and make clear that the former Utah governor will/should stay in beyond New Hampshire. Some highlights via Politico’s Morning Score:
1. “The race will ultimately be a contest between Mitt Romney and an electable alternative to Mitt Romney. That alternative will be Jon Huntsman or Rick Santorum but will not be decided until late Spring, despite the wishes of Washington insiders.”
2. “For Romney to be able to proclaim a victory in New Hampshire, he will need to meet market expectations. Given his polling strength, financial advantage and home state status (along with the endorsement by McCain), anything short of a near outright majority should be a disappointment to Team Romney and his Washington insider allies.”
3. “South Carolina: Exceeding expectations in NH will trigger a critical burst of momentum for Governor Huntsman in South Carolina and Florida if we act quickly. He has not yet been well-defined in the state and his consistent conservative record will play well – particularly juxtaposed against Romney’s record of flip-flops and abandonment of the South Carolina primary in 2008.”
4. “Extended Primary: We anticipate this battle will go on well into the Spring, until a decisive set of primaries between only two or perhaps three candidates have concluded. The anti-Romney vote now hovers between 55 and 75 percent in each state. While Team Romney has used and will continue to use that to their initial advantage, ultimately the coalescing of support behind one consistent, electable conservative candidate will be the undoing of the White Star Line moderate.” Read Weaver’s full memo.
The New York Times fronts a story in Sunday’s paper: “Huntsman, out of options, bets it all on New Hampshire.”
Jonathan Martin’s story that led POLITICO last night: “Trailing in New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman takes the long view.”