News & Politics

Meet GOP Hopeful Tim Pawlenty's New Campaign Manager -- He's on a Mission from God

Tim Pawlenty has made perhaps the most significant move yet along the long buck-filled road to the Republican Party's presidential nomination.

Meet Nick Ayers, the 28-year-old 'wunderkind' who apparently believes he's received a directive from God to help lead Pawlenty to the Promised Land.

While Donald Trump has been making the most buzz-nutty moves, Mitt Romney the most predictable, Mike Huckabee the most personable, except when he's been caught a number of times saying offensive and ridiculous stuff, Newt Gingrich the most opportunistic, Herman Cain the most Alan Keyes-like, and Michelle Bachmann the most charismatic and Tea Partyish, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has made perhaps the most significant move yet along the long buck-filled road to the Republican Party's presidential nomination.

Although his recently released book Courage to Stand: an American Story hasn't sold particularly well and he isn't getting any style points for charisma or oratorical skills, nevertheless, Pawlenty may have gained a leg up on his challengers by naming a young, hot, hunting-loving political "wunderkind" as campaign manager for his exploratory committee. And that boy wonder/whiz kid claims to have a direct pipeline to God.

Meet Nick Ayers, Tim Pawlenty's 28-year-old campaign manager. Ayers is a religious fellow who formerly was the head of the Republican Governors Association, a group that under his leadership raised tens of millions for Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2010, and which, according to journalist Andy Birkey, in a story published in The Minnesota Independent, "funneled money into Minnesota's Future to run negative ads against Mark Dayton during the 2010 gubernatorial election."

Birkey recently reported that while Ayers was running the Republican Governors Association, it "spent almost a million dollars attempting to take Dayton down during the 2010 election by funneling money to Minnesota's Future, an LLC that some allege was designed to mask the source of the funds. That setup generated campaign finance complaints which were eventually dismissed."

According to Politico, "After leaving the RGA, Ayers aided the transition of newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus."

The second coming of Ralph Reed/Karl Rove

"He is without question one of the best political talents in America," Pawlenty said of Ayers. "We are very excited Nick will lead our team. His leadership and record of winning tough races in every part of our country will provide even more momentum to our campaign to get America back on track."

In a press release, Ayers allowed that he had thought long and hard about which candidate to support/work for: "Over the past six months, I have prayed deeply about my purpose in life and how best to utilize the talents God has given me. I wanted my decision to be wholly about how best to serve Him, not what was most politically or financially expedient for my family and me.

"As He often does in walks of faith, He has called me to a higher purpose. I believe that our Nation is truly on the wrong path. We need a new direction that is positive and hopeful. Simply said, we need new leadership. I believe that Governor Pawlenty is best positioned to provide that leadership. Therefore, I am pleased today to join Governor and Mrs. Pawlenty in their pursuit of the presidency."

"In 2006," Birkey reported, Ayers "ran the campaign for Georgia Gov. Sonny Purdue, the first Republican elected to that state's executive office since Reconstruction. It was during the 2006 campaign that Ayers was arrested" on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol; a charge that was later dropped. According to Politico, "Ayers has long maintained he was sober and paid a fine for a lesser violation."

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Ayers "has been called a younger version of Bush strategist Karl Rove, and he's on a first-name basis with Fortune 500 CEOs, well-to-do donors and U.S. congressmen." Ayers, a Georgia native, was cited as one of the Republican Party's five "fastest rising stars in the nation" by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

In September of last year, Ayers was named "Power Player of the Week" by "Fox News Sunday."

Erick Erickson, the well-known conservative blogger at RedState recently wrote that over time, he hasn't been overly impressed with Pawlenty: "He has never struck me as the most exciting politician. His global warming position made me squeamish. He's always had an okay record as Governor, but around the edges he struck me as not really a movement conservative."

While Ayers' appointment may not be a "game changer", according to Erickson, it could very well be a "game starter": "[T]his hire forces me to pay attention to Tim Pawlenty and you should too now. Putting a twenty-something in such a position is a bold and risky move. But Nick Ayers's track record suggests Pawlenty is suddenly a force to be reckoned with - especially for guys like me who were counting him out before he really got started."

Politico also reported that "Pawlenty has been aggressively staffing up. Ayers joins other top Republican strategists like Terry Nelson, Sen. John McCain's former presidential campaign manager; Sara Taylor, former political director for President George W. Bush; Alex Conant, former RNC 'spokesman; former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber and Phil Musser, a former RGA executive director."

Pawlenty has also brought Republican veteran Jon Seaton, who worked in McCain's 2008 presidential campaign as national field  director, on board as national political director, and Jon Lerner, who worked for several successful congressional and gubernatorial campaigns in 2010, as his pollster..

Ayers and his wife Jamie (Floyd), live in Atlanta, where she is a political fundraiser and CEO of The Jamieson Group, Inc., and is a second cousin of Gov. Perdue.

"[Pawlenty] is certainly the underdog, because he has not sought the presidency before, and he has not been preparing for this his entire life," Ayers told National Review Online's Robert Costa "To defeat President Obama, we are going to have to unify the party, and I know that he will be able to do that. Polls - eight months, ten months, a year out - they don't concern me at all.

"My view on Governor Pawlenty is that he is like a good investment or a good start-up company," he said. "The time to invest is when the price is low. My theory was, invest low, win high. I don't believe that there is a better investment in Republican politics right now."

In an interview with the Marietta (Georgia) Daily Journal Kennesaw State University, political science professor Dr. Kermit Swint, who taught Ayers, said that he was "convinced he will someday manage a successful presidential campaign. He is very talented and very driven. He is also very likable, which is also part of his secret. He's nice and well spoken, and people usually end up falling all over themselves trying to help him with whatever he's doing."

 

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering right-wing groups and movements.