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With 2012 Field Solidifying, Talent Market Heats Up

Ken Lambert/AP
Doug Gross, shown here campaigning for Iowa governor in 2002 with President George W. Bush, had hoped that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels would run for president. Gross would give a candidate access to the state’s GOP governor.

In campaigns, like in football, there’s a free-agent market. And in this presidential cycle there’s still a lot of uncommitted political talent looking to join the national league.

There’s no doubt that the 2012 White House campaign is off to a late start compared with the 2008 cycle. As a result, many operatives who typically fill vital roles in the early states are still sitting on the sidelines — for now.

Why the delay? Campaigns are much more careful this cycle about how to deploy their resources early on.

After all, the two GOP candidates who spent heavily on staff early in 2008, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), did not benefit from it. McCain was forced to purge most of his staff by the summer of 2007 after his campaign bottomed out financially, and Romney failed to win the nomination despite having an extensive and experienced staff.

“The last thing that any campaign wants to do is spend tons of money early on building up a big, bloated bureaucracy,” said Todd Harris, a Republican consultant who has worked on several presidential campaigns.

Secondly, the primary calendar has changed in recent cycles, and not every candidate is competing in all of the early states. Candidates are picking and choosing more than ever how hard to play in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

“One of the reasons for it is because of the way that more and more candidates are approaching the primary calendar. It used to be that everybody started in Iowa, and then you went to New Hampshire and then you went to South Carolina and onward, and you didn’t really have any choice in the matter,” Harris said. “Way back when, when every candidate competed everywhere, every consultant got hired. Today, it’s not necessarily the case.”

But with a slew of campaign announcements scheduled for early June, it’s clear that the field of GOP White House hopefuls has started to solidify. As a result, many of the following uncommitted operatives — veterans of the presidential contests in the early states — might be soon looking to join a team.


Robert Haus

Haus has served in a senior role for Republican White House hopefuls in Iowa for the past three presidential elections. But so far this cycle, Haus is without a home, confirming to Roll Call last week that he hasn’t signed on with a presidential candidate yet but that he’s still interested in doing so.

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