Jon Huntsman staffing up in Florida; No one else is
By this time in the 2008 presidential cycle both John McCain and Mitt Romney had lined up considerate political talent in Florida. This year is different.
Mitt Romney, who four years ago had Jeb Bush strategist Sally Bradshaw of Tallahassee in his inner circle and a host of field staffers on the ground in Florida, is keeping coy about how seriously he'll play here. So far Romney's only non-finance staffer in the state is Molly Donlin, who had been a central Florida field staffer for Rudy Giuliani. Other Republican contenders appear to be following Romney's lead, focusing on raising money in Florida far more than drumming up votes and building a campaign operation.
The big exception is Jon Huntsman, who has opened up his national campaign headquarters in Orlando at the intersection of Church Street and Orange Ave. Along with a Floridian national campaign manager, Susie Wiles, and Florida state director Nikki Jerger Lowery, he has brought on board some other respected political pros, including former state GOP executive director David Johnson, respected and tough to pronounce Marc Reichelderfer (a former Romney adviser), and Alex Castellanos Jr.
Haley Barbour's team, led by Sally Bradshaw, had seemed poised to make Florida a key part of his strategy, but then he decided not to run. Tim Pawlenty has top funraisers on board, but that's it to our knowledge. There's a lot of Florida GOP political talent that remains unspoken for. Among the names that come to mind: Bradshaw, Brett Doster, Randy Enwright, Jim Rimes, Karen Unger, Rick Wilson, Rich Heffley, Albert Martinez, Jillian Hasner, Julio Rebull.