Shop Talk: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Posted February 24, 2010 at 6:43pm

While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) got behind his former presidential primary foe Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) this week by endorsing him for re-election, their 2008 consulting teams and prominent supporters appear to be picking sides in other races across the country.

[IMGCAP(1)]The two teams appear to be taking opposite sides in New York’s 1st district, where three Republicans are targeting Rep. Tim Bishop (D). According to a report in the New York Post, top McCain advisers Mark Salter and John Weaver are advising attorney Chris Cox (R) ­’ the son of the state party chairman and grandson of President Richard Nixon. Cox has reportedly also hired three other former top McCain advisers: media consultant Fred Davis, former spokesman Danny Diaz and pollster Bill McInturff.

Meanwhile, former Securities and Exchange prosecutor George Demos (R) has tapped Romney’s former advisers at the Shawmut Group, which boasts consultants such as ex-Romney campaign manager Beth Myers, spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom, deputy campaign manager and former Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Peter Flaherty and Rob Cole, a former aide to Gov. George Pataki (R).

Meanwhile in New Hampshire, operatives for the former presidential foes also appear to be taking sides in some races. McCain is scheduled to host a fundraiser for former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) on March 13. Ayotte, who was recruited by national Republicans to run for retiring Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R) seat, is one of several Republicans running in the September primary. Ayotte’s finance chairman, Steve Duprey, also supported McCain in the New Hampshire primary.

Ovide Lamontagne, a prominent Romney supporter and former gubernatorial nominee, is also running in the GOP primary. He has tapped Romney’s New Hampshire campaign manager, Jim Merrill, to be a senior adviser to his campaign.

In related news, an Ayotte aide confirmed that the campaign has hired Jeff Grappone, a one-time spokesman for former Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.), as communications director. Grappone worked for another 2008 candidate, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), in the New Hampshire primary, but he went on to serve as New England communications director for McCain in the general election.

Perfecting the Craft. Seasoned new media veterans Michael Turk, Jon Henke and Matthew Dybwad have signed on to the budding GOP media firm Craft Media Digital, which launched less than two months ago.

The firm’s two founding partners, Brian Donahue and Justin Germany, count among their clients Republican Reps. Joe Wilson (S.C.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.). The firm also reports that it consults for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Republican National Committee and Congressional candidates in Kentucky, Wisconsin and Utah.

Turk has either run or had a key role in the Internet operations of three presidential campaigns, including Bush/Cheney ’04, and he most recently served as vice president of industry and grass roots at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

Henke was new media adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and worked on campaigns for former Sens. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and George Allen (R-Va.).

Dybwad is the former director of Internet strategy at the online direct marketing and consulting political shop Emotive.

Family Matters. Rep. Roy Blunt (R) has tapped a familiar face to run his Senate campaign against Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D): his son Andy Blunt.

Although he might be one of the few men in his family who hasn’t run for office, Andy Blunt has run several campaigns for another family member. He helped to elect his brother, Matt Blunt (R), Missouri secretary of state in 2000, then ran Matt Blunt’s successful 2004 gubernatorial campaign.

Andy Blunt also served as a senior adviser and state chairman for Romney’s 2008 bid for the White House.

A Schiff in Strategy, Take Two. Businessman Peter Schiff (R) has hired a new team of consultants for his Connecticut Senate bid, where he is battling former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons for the GOP nomination.

After he parted ways with his original consulting team in September, Schiff tapped former state party political director J.R. Romano to be his political director. Romano has been promoted to campaign manager, according to a press release from the Schiff campaign, and Len Greene will serve as political director.

Additionally, Schiff has picked Jon Seaton of East Meridian Strategies to be his general consultant and Adam Probolsky to be his pollster. Veteran GOP operative Carl Forti, the president of Black Rock Group, will serve as Schiff’s communications adviser, and Evan Kozlow of Revolution Agency will consult the campaign on media. John Allan Peschong and Wayne Johnson will serve as senior advisers to the campaign.

Schiff originally tapped Tony Marsh and Alfredo Rodriguez, both of Marsh Copsey and Associates, Tyler Harber of Wilson Research Strategies and Jon Scott of Liftline Group to advise his race. At the time, Schiff’s brother and spokesman Andrew Schiff said the campaign was focusing on hiring staff inside the Nutmeg State, including Romano.

Barb-ed, Wired and Ready to Go. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.) has announced her campaign staff for her re-election bid, which is expected to be a slam-dunk for the four-term Democrat.

Campaign manager Simone Ward, media consultant Mandy Grunwald and pollster Fred Yang have joined Mikulski’s effort, according to a release from her campaign.

Ward comes from EMILY’s List, where she served in the political department and helped elect Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and others. Grunwald, who will serve as the campaign’s chief communications strategist, is best known for working on then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) campaign for the White House. Grunwald has advised several Democratic Senators in recent cycles, including Sens. Al Franken (Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.).

Yang and his firm, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, have polled for 12 Senators and two Maryland Democrats recently elected to higher office, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Rep. Frank Kratovil.

A Savage Race. Secretary of State Todd Rokita, one of the top Republicans seeking to succeed retiring Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), has tapped a former senior aide to Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) to be his campaign manager.

Cam Savage, Daniels’ communications director for his 2008 re-election bid, will serve as Rokita’s campaign manager.

The Rokita campaign’s finance director, Laken Sisko, served in the same role for the state party in the 2008 cycle. Political director Mike Sullivan, who ran businessman Patrick Hughes’ failed bid to win the GOP Senate nomination in Illinois earlier this month, has also come on board.

Rokita has tapped Chris Faulkner of Faulkner Strategies to do mail, Patrick Lanne of Public Opinion Strategies to do polling and Jonathan Poe of Rising Tide Media to do his media.

Fundraiser Erin Casey, an Indiana native, will assist with the campaign’s Washington, D.C., fundraising.

Moran Mix-Up. Two of Rep. Jerry Moran’s (R-Kan.) top staffers have left his Senate campaign.

Longtime aide Aaron Trost has departed as campaign manager, while Communications Director Dan Lara is scheduled to leave the campaign Friday. Both men maintain that the split is congenial: According to a report in the Kansas City Star, Trost is leaving on good terms and Lara is departing for personal reasons.

Moran announced that Paul Moore will serve as his new campaign manager. The west Kansas Congressman also announced in a press release that he has tapped Elizabeth Patton as coalitions and outreach director, Karl Hansen as deputy campaign manager and Matt Manda as political director.

Moran is considered the frontrunner in the primary over Rep. Todd Tiahrt. They are running to succeed Sen. Sam Brownback (R), who is running for governor.

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