A blistering internal feud in the Jon Huntsman presidential campaign is erupting into public view, with dueling camps trading charges and an exodus of campaign officials.
And now, a longtime family friend tells POLITICO that Huntsman’s wife and father fret that his presidential prospects have been threatened by the turmoil — and he places the blame on John Weaver, Huntsman’s controversial chief strategist.
Huntsman himself is so worried about the “drama,” as he calls it, that he’s taken a hands-on role in the restructuring, in hopes of rebounding from early missteps before it’s too late to improve his bottom-of-the-pack standing.
“I look forward to a future of less drama, more money and increasing contrasts with my opponents. We can win this thing,” Huntsman wrote in an email to the friend just hours after the resignation of his first campaign manager, Susie Wiles, became public July 21.
“Goodness will overcome the temporary difficulties and early turf-protecting within the campaign,” wrote Huntsman, adding: “I love you like a brother.”
The recipient of that email — David Fischer, who has known Huntsman since the 1980s and later worked for his father — shared with POLITICO behind-the-scenes details about Huntsman’s stumbling start.
He described Huntsman’s organization as disorganized and full of staff tension, disclosed new facts about the candidate’s announcement day mishaps, recounted tearful conversations with the recently departed Wiles and revealed other previously undisclosed resignations.
Fischer himself recently left the campaign after being asked to give up his operations post by Weaver, who the campaign said was acting at the behest of the candidate. In a subsequent email — one of several from Huntsman reviewed by POLITICO — Huntsman asked Fischer to stay on in an advisory role.
Fischer attributed the problems in the campaign almost entirely to Weaver and a management style marked by what he and another campaign source described as “verbal abuse.”
“It’s not an ego [thing],” Fischer said, when asked why he was going public. “In fact, a lot of it is if the story gets told, I want the story to be, because Weaver’s history in past campaigns is when they don’t work out, for whatever reason, he attacks the candidate. And in this case, I am hoping that people at least focus on, well, what went wrong here? The strategy went wrong. The strategy didn’t work. At least to this day it hasn’t worked.”
After Fischer’s revelations, multiple sources close to Huntsman’s campaign subsequently came forward to corroborate some of the information and disclose new facts — revealing a campaign divided between factions loyal to Weaver and those who couldn’t stand him.
Weaver declined to answer questions, and the campaign instead issued a statement targeting Fischer.
“Dave Fischer tried to threaten the campaign regarding his participation in this story and we refused to cooperate with him,” said spokesman Tim Miller. “As a volunteer staff member he attempted to usurp authority, asked inappropriate questions about junior staff and was rightly asked to leave by Governor Huntsman. His statements about this campaign are untrue. The fact that he would be willing to undermine Governor Huntsman in this way says everything you need to know about his character, his credibility, and whether he has the Governor’s best interests at heart.”
Read it all.
Put a fork in Huntsman – He’s Done.