In the face of bleak poll numbers and fundraising troubles, the Pawlenty campaign needs an injection of energy in order to stay competitive in the race. And the former Minnesota governor took a step in the right direction today, hiring Sarah Huckabee Sanders — daughter of Mike Huckabee — as his senior political adviser:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders is joining Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign as senior political adviser. She begins her new role in the campaign’s Iowa headquarters today, taking the lead for the campaign on the Iowa Straw Poll effort with a focus on expanding the campaign’s grassroots operations across the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
There are a couple of reasons to see this as a potential turning point for the campaign. First, Sanders has a successful track record as an operative, having run her father’s winning primary campaign in Iowa during the last Republican presidential nomination. She then went on to steer Sen. John Boozman’s victorious 2010 Senate campaign.
Hiring Sanders also shows Pawlenty is still serious about running an aggressive campaign in Iowa. And while it may be too early to speculate, it could signal that Pawlenty has a good shot at picking up an endorsement from Huckabee — which would be an enormous boost to his campaign, both in Iowa and nationally.
In fact, there’s already been speculation Huckabee may be leaning toward Team Pawlenty. In an interview with Politico last month, the Fox News personality was noticeably enthusiastic about Pawlenty, and even said he’d been offering the presidential candidate political advice:
“I’m not endorsing anybody right now,” Huckabee said on his way to a book signing. “I’ll let the field play out and make a decision on that later on.”
Yet he was notably effusive about Tim Pawlenty when asked about some critical comments he made earlier in the week regarding the Minnesotan’s debate performance.
Huckabee indicated that he had talked to Pawlenty to explain why he called the candidate “over-coached, over-consulted” on Laura Ingraham’s radio show.
“I visited with Gov. Pawlenty about that,” said Huck. “He’s a great guy, he’s a strong candidate, he’s a very articulate person and he has an incredible record. My point was that he doesn’t need to let the consultants coach him to the point that he doesn’t get to be who he is.”
And Huckabee rival Mitt Romney’s lead in the Iowa polls could be yet another motivating factor for the Fox News pundit to come out in support of Pawlenty.