- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination was rocked Thursday with the abrupt resignation of campaign manager Susie Wiles, who cited exhaustion as the reason for her departure.

The move comes as Mr. Huntsman, who resigned as President Obama’s ambassador to China to enter the race, struggled to rise above low single digits in Republican primary polls.

Mrs. Wiles‘ replacement is an unusual choice — the campaign’s former communications director Matt David, an experienced political hand who saw things go bad in the campaign from the start and seethed privately, campaign insiders said.

Some operatives said they thought they saw a gradual easing out of Mrs. Wiles in recent days. Two weeks ago, for example, Mr. Huntsman hired away British Prime Minister David Cameron’s operations manager, Conyers Davis, to be deputy campaign manager for operations.

Mrs. Wiles told the Miami Herald she was “exhausted” and that it was time to move on. She had come to the Huntsman campaign with seemingly sterling credentials, as the woman who helped engineer health care executive Rick Scott’s surprise win in the Florida governor’s race last fall.

Earlier this month, Mr. Huntsman told The Washington Times that, despite reports to the contrary, he was perfectly happy with the way Mrs. Wiles and her husband, Lanny — Mr. Huntsman’s omnipresent “body man” — were performing for the campaign.

Mr. Wiles has been moved around on the campaign but remains involved in the effort. Mr. Huntsman and Mr. Wiles were low-level advance men for the Reagan presidential campaign.

The departure — whether a resignation or a firing — of Mrs. Wiles may signify more trouble ahead for Mr. Huntsman’s bid.

Some say it could be a terminal blow to a campaign that never quite seemed to get off the ground. But others noted that Sen. John McCain was similarly written off after internal organizational woes in the 2008 nomination fight, but was able to retool, restaff and ultimately win the nomination.

Mr. Huntsman, a moderate who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese from his days as a Mormon missionary, got off to a rocky start with a formal campaign kickoff event last month near the Statue of Liberty that was marred by numerous logistical glitches.

Behind closed doors, political pros employed in rival campaigns have treated the Huntsman organization — and Mrs. Wiles in particular — as a joke.

One veteran of five previous GOP presidential campaigns said privately, “She can’t organize a two-car funeral.”

The man behind the curtain in the Huntsman organization is John Weaver, who was also Mr. McCain’s 2008 campaign strategist when the wheels came off that effort.

Susie has served the campaign well and was vital in getting it off the ground in such a short time frame,” Mr. Weaver said in a statement released Thursday. “Now the campaign is moving into phase two, which will be more aggressive from a messaging and tactical standpoint and Matt is prepared to take that on.”



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