Jon Huntsman's campaign manager, Susie Wiles, is resigning, the campaign said Thursday, just a month after the former Utah governor jumped into the Republican presidential nomination with a much-hyped speech at the Statue of Liberty. The moderate Huntsman, once hailed as the Republican most feared by the Obama campaign, has flopped in nearly every state and national poll, and struggled to raise money. Has Huntsman, who stepped down as President Obama's China ambassador to run, flamed out already?
No. This just signals a strategy shift: Jon Huntsman's candidacy isn't dead, says Alex Altman at TIME, but his nice-guy campaign might be. By shaking up his team — replacing Wiles with his communications director, Matt David — Huntsman is conceding that his pledge to "make civility a hallmark of his campaign" cost him dearly. He knows he "needs to sharpen his message and draw aggressive distinctions with rivals," and this staff reshuffle is a bid to find a pitch that works.
"Staff shake-up for Huntsman"
Huntsman's team is not the problem — Huntsman is: "Sometime a great candidate is weighted down by poor staff and needs to shake things up," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. Ronald Reagan did something similar in 1980, and went on to win two terms. "This is not one of those times." Huntsman has failed to crack 3 percent in the polls because he's getting "an avalanche of bad reviews" from conservatives. He'd have to betray his moderate beliefs, unconvincingly, if he wants to appeal to them and "have any shot at winning."
"Is Jon Huntsman's team the problem?"
Huntsman is flailing, but it's still early: "Jon Huntsman peaked on the day in January Newsweek reported he might be running," says Erick Erickson at RedState. But now he's such a longshot that "even the media that turned him into a darling has started ignoring him." His foreign policy cred won't help in an election focused on the economy, and his backing of Obama's stimulus hurts him with GOP primary voters. He has plenty of time to turn it around, but "things are not looking good."
"The horserace for July 21, 2011"