Huntsman hires consultants with Inhofe ties

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Former Utah Gov. and Obama Administration Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has hired two campaign consultants with ties to Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe to handle the candidate's video and digital presence.

Ryan Cassin is Huntsman's digital strategist, according to a CNN story about the Huntsman campaign website. Cassin served as political director of Inhofe's 2008 reelection campaign, GOTV/grassroots coordinator for the Oklahoma Republican State House Committee in 2006, and deputy campaign manager for Mick Cornett's unsuccessful 2006 run for Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District. Earlier this year Cassin and former Inhofe campaign manager Josh Kivett founded Connect Strategic Communications.

Fred Davis, Inhofe's nephew, is Huntsman's media strategist, creating web video ads which have received notice in political circles for being rather odd:

Needless to say, the ads are a bit of a head-scratcher if you don't already know about Huntsman. It's all very puzzling.

"Exactly right. On purpose. Correct me if I'm wrong, Jeff, but is the election today? I can't remember," said Fred Davis, the man responsible for the video series. " ... The goal today is to say, 'huh, you know I'm not really excited about anybody on the Republican side running for president. Look, here's somebody's whose fresh and different. That's all you can ask for today."

Davis is a very affable man on quite a hot streak. He was behind the viral Carla Fiorina "Demon Sheep" ad in the 2010 midterms and is accustomed to making a splash with his off-beat videos. It's perfect and "will eventually make sense," he said of Huntsman's unconventional campaign, which he's joining in an official capacity.

You'll recall that Davis was also behind Christine O'Donnell's "I'm Not a Witch" ad from 2010 and Bob Sullivan's campaign ads attacking Ernest Istook during the 2006 Oklahoma Republican governor's primary. (Those ads involved Gailard Sartain, a pig mask, and an Istook mask.)

(I started looking into this because I was surprised to see exuberantly positive mentions of Huntsman on my Facebook home page from Cassin. I didn't expect to see any of my Facebook friends -- mostly Tulsans, Oklahomans, and national bloggers -- excited about a Huntsman candidacy.)

MORE on Jon Huntsman:

Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks dismisses Huntsman:

"To be honest with you...we haven't really taken a look at him [Huntsman] because I don't consider him a serious candidate," said Kibbe. "If he starts to emerge as somebody- I mean, I've been told by people that he's not terribly good on our issues."...

"He [Huntsman] had some pretty glorifying things to say about the stimulus," Kibbe continued. "And apparently...there's a lot of rumors that's he's signed some really glowing letter about Obama as soon as he was an ambassador," he added jokingly.

Michelle Malkin: "Jon Huntsman: McCain on Wheels"

Huntsman is the latest no-labels flavor of the month, a straw man of the same people who have spent the past year smearing entitlement reformers as senior-citizen killers, budget hawks as Hitler's spawn, border-security activists as racists, and leading GOP women as sluts, nuts, and bimbos.

While politely paying lip service to principles of tea-party fiscal restraint, Huntsman hopes no one remembers how 2,000 Utah tea-party activists booed him in April 2009 so corrosively it could have stripped the paint off a fleet of Harleys.

Utah conservatives raised their voices at the seminal tea-party rally against Huntsman for championing $1.6 billion in Obama stimulus funds (Huntsman wanted even more money than that) -- and against GOP senator Orrin Hatch and then-GOP senator Bob Bennett for backing the Bush-Obama TARP bailout. The grassroots message: "Send them home!" A year later, voters ousted Bennett from the GOP primary after four profligate terms in office. And Hatch is in for the fight of his entrenched incumbent life.

Malkin points out several similarities between McCain and Huntsman with regard to global warming, illegal immigration, and government control of health care.

In an interview with Politico, Huntsman says he plans to win the nomination by appealing to non-Republicans who will be able, in many states, to cross over and vote in the Republican primary.

Given that an incumbent president is a prohibitive favorite to win renomination, many Democrat voters will take the lack of a competitive primary for their own party to influence the outcome of the Republican nomination process.

The former Utah governor's strategy is an attempt to make a virtue out of necessity. His moderate positions on the environment, immigration and civil unions --and his time as Barack Obama's ambassador to China--are formidable obstacles to victory in a party where the energy is concentrated in the conservative core.

Huntsman plans to skip the Iowa caucuses. Huntsman's wealth and past political favors may win him political allies that might otherwise reject him on policy grounds:

A litany of establishment South Carolina Republicans who have already signed up to support him were at his side: former state party executive director Joel Sawyer, who is running his effort in the state; Mike Campbell, son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, a revered Republican figure here; and former state Attorney General Henry McMaster.

McMaster is returning the support he got from Huntsman several years ago, when the ex-governor held a fundraiser out out west that netted $60,000 for McMaster's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The fundraiser was held before Huntsman departed to become ambassador to China.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 22, 2011 5:55 PM.

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