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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.

Call Dennehy suddenly single, at least in the political sense. He originally signed on with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who abruptly decided in April that he would not run for president after several months of seriously exploring a bid.

As a result, the former aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is back on the market, and local GOP operatives said it’s unlikely that Dennehy will remain on the sidelines for the rest of 2012. “I’m still open to the possibility, but I haven’t made a decision one way or the other,” he said.

Dennehy is best known as the man responsible for orchestrating McCain’s whopping 19-point victory over then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire GOP primary. But he also served as McCain’s full-time national political director through the New Hampshire primary in the 2008 cycle, and he has overseen a slew of other local campaigns throughout the past 20 years and served as executive director for the New Hampshire GOP.

Dennehy also said he’s more open to working as a senior adviser than day-to-day campaign manager for a candidate this time around, and locals say he would be a boost to any of the campaigns — if they can afford to bring him on board. “He would be an asset to any campaign; whether they could all afford him or not is another question,” former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen said. “He’s genuinely talented and would command a good pay.”

Jaime Burnett

Granite State insiders joke that Burnett is actually former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu’s (R) ninth child. While that is not the case, Burnett is close to the family that has ruled New Hampshire GOP politics for decades, and he now partners with two of the former White House chief of staff’s sons in his consulting business.

Burnett worked for Sununu’s son Sen. John Sununu as a legislative director and as his deputy campaign manager in 2008, and he worked on former Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R-N.H.) staff. He also boasts presidential experience as Romney’s former political director in New Hampshire in 2008, but so far this cycle he’s uncommitted.

“I was probably most interested in working for Mitch Daniels had he run, but he’s not running,” Burnett told Roll Call. “It’s going to take me a little bit of time to figure out.”

Burnett had been approached about serving as a campaign manager by a couple of existing campaigns but decided against pursing that opportunity because of his young family. However, he said he’s still interested in serving in an advisory role for the right candidate.

South Carolina

Warren Tompkins

If experience counts, then Tompkins is the man to beat in the Palmetto State. He’s been involved in every presidential race since 1976 in the state. Most recently, Tompkins was a key consultant for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) in South Carolina in 2008. But this cycle, he said he’s uncommitted, especially now that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) aren’t running.

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