Another piece of the puzzle is in place for Republican Jon Huntsman, Jr., should he decide to make it official and run for president in 2012. Horizon PAC spokesman Tim Miller confirms the hiring of pollster Whit Ayres. Horizon has been widely dubbed as Huntsman's campaign-in-waiting, even though it's not officially associated with him. In a statement released to Fox, Ayres says, "I think the Republican nominating contest is more wide open than at any time in our lifetimes. Republican primary voters appear hungry for a fresh face and a new conservative voice. I hope Governor Huntsman will be that voice."
Ayres, McHenry & Associates, Inc. is a national public opinion and public affairs research firm. Asked what the hiring of a pollster like Ayres means, University of Denver Political Science Associate Professor Seth Masket says, "Technically the act of hiring a pollster is not necessarily that critical. Hiring the pollster that they did, Whit Ayres, is a pretty big signal. He's a very serious pollster. He has a lot of history in both presidential campaigns, a number of prominent congressional campaigns. He's very well known in the Republican field and so the fact they were able to land him, suggests to other candidates ... and to other people in Republican politics, this is a serious candidacy." Pollster Floyd Ciruli, founder of Ciruli Associates, says Ayres "carries a lot of clout". Ciruli points out, "all those people who create the buzz around presidential politics, they are highly affected by who's on your team" and those team members "can be more important at this point than who endorses you" for purposes of raising money and getting going.
Ayres, who is also President of the American Association of Political Consultants, has experience doing poll work in early states such as South Carolina and Florida. Masket explains why that's valuable: "This is an area where it's actually very difficult to conduct polling, where you're looking at an event that you know is going to happen, but we're still ... less than a year or so away from it (the primaries). And most of the key voters at this point don't really know who the candidates are. It's actually difficult to get sense on how the candidate would do in an election, so a pollster who's experienced in this kind of area is really helpful".
Huntsman, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China, officially finishes his diplomatic post in just 10 days. Once he's done with his government gig and returns to the states sometime around his resignation date of April 30, the former two term governor of Utah will no longer be restrained from jumping into politics. While he has been tied up overseas, his name is experiencing hijinks on the web. There are reports someone snapped up the domain name JonHuntsman.com. On it, there's a copy of the handwritten "love letter" (first posted by The Daily Caller) that Huntsman sent to President Obama. The letters leak has had tongues wagging. In the latest round of speculation, the Deseret News reports the governor's former Communications Director was seen pouring over archives of Huntsman's handwritten correspondence.