In an attempt to jump-start his bid, aides said, Huntsman will highlight his conservative record as governor and directly attack the man viewed as his chief rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
On Thursday, Huntsman replaced his campaign manager, Susie Wiles, with Matt David, a longtime communications strategist steeped in the rapid-response pace of campaigns. In the 2004 campaign, David was one of the aides in the “war room” who devised tactics to attack Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic presidential nominee, and defend President George W. Bush, who was running for reelection.
Huntsman plans in the next few weeks to highlight what his campaign calls Romney’s weak record on job creation and inconsistency on key issues, aides said.
The campaign also began an initiative dubbed Conservatives for Huntsman to secure pledges of support from 5,000 conservative voters. That represents an attempt to redefine the candidate, whom many GOP voters know mostly as Obama’s former ambassador to China.
“Governor Huntsman is going to be more aggressive about message and strategy and defining differences with Obama and Romney,” spokesman Tim Miller said. “That’s a message that needs to get out in the coming weeks.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reports on one sign of the challenges facing Huntsman:
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman retooled his presidential campaign staff last week, elevating his communications director to campaign manager and promising a more aggressive effort. He needs it.
Huntsman has yet to make up much ground in national or early state polls, and he seems to be losing another test of support: Facebook likes.
Mitt Romney has racked up more than 1 million supporters on his Facebook page, Michele Bachmann has 430,634 who have signed on to her fan site. Herman Cain has 153,576 and Tim Pawlenty 103,518.
To be fair, Huntsman has only officially been a candidate for a little over a month and didn’t take over his Facebook fan site until right before he announced. His Republican opponents have had much more time. Still, he’s got a long way to go before he can catch up to their support level.