Presidential Candidate Masterminds

By Paul O’Donnell, Special to CNBC

Campaign Consultants

Mamas, why let your babies grow up to be cowboys when they can be political consultants? Herding voters instead of cattle pays better, and if they win, these roving guns generally follow their candidate into a prestigious White House job. If the current crop of top campaign advisers is any measure, neither losing a national race nor burning out on the campaign trail dents your job prospects. Can we tell anything about the candidates from their choice of consultant? A White House hopeful’s pick i
Photo: Getty Images

Mamas, why let your babies grow up to be cowboys when they can be political consultants? Herding voters instead of cattle pays better, and if they win, these roving guns generally follow their candidate into a prestigious White House job. If the current crop of top campaign advisers is any measure, neither losing a national race nor burning out on the campaign trail dents your job prospects.

Can we tell anything about the candidates from their choice of consultant? A White House hopeful’s pick is an important early economic decision as well as a political one: A professional campaigner these days commands a fee of six percent or more of the campaign budget. It’s no wonder that even the contenders who are running against the system are associated with experienced, well-tested GOP campaign hands. Click ahead to see the masterminds behind the Republican presidential hopefuls.

By Paul O’Donnell
Posted 28 November 2011

Mitt Romney and Stuart Stevens

The laid-back Southerner Stuart Stevens is credited with substituting blue jeans and open collars for Romney’s corporate-look suits, but Stevens’s CV is cut from establishment cloth: after working for Bob Dole in 1996, W. in 2000, he most recently served New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Whatever Romney’s fate, we may get a good read out of a Stevens effort: after Bush won, Stevens penned an insightful and wise-cracking chronicle of the campaign titled “The Big Enchilada.”
Photo: Getty Images

The laid-back Southerner Stuart Stevens is credited with substituting blue jeans and open collars for Romney’s corporate-look suits, but Stevens’s CV is cut from establishment cloth: After working for Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000, he most recently served New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Whatever Romney’s fate, we may get a good read out of a Stevens effort: After Bush won, Stevens penned an insightful and wise-cracking chronicle of the campaign titled “The Big Enchilada.”

Ron Paul and Jesse Benton

With the death of his 2008 campaign chief, Kent Snyder, shortly after the last presidential election, Paul boosted onetime press aide Jesse Benton—Ron Paul’s son Sen. Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign chief—to national chairman for the current run. Benton, a Philadelphia native and conservative stalwart, has served as press officer to organizations like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union and the Liberty Coalition.
Photo: Getty Images

With the death of his 2008 campaign chief, Kent Snyder, shortly after the last presidential election, Ron Paul boosted onetime press aide Jesse Benton — Paul’s son Sen. Rand Paul’s 2010 campaign chief — to national chairman for the current run. Benton, a Philadelphia native and conservative stalwart, has served as press officer to organizations such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, and the Liberty Coalition.

Rick Santorum and Mike Biundo

In January, Santorum locked up Mike Biundo as his top operative in New Hampshire, then this fall made Biundo his national campaign manager. Biundo can hone Santorum’s rescue-the-culture message—in 1996, he helped deliver New Hampshire for Pat Buchanan, when the culture-warrior upset frontrunner Bob Dole. But Biundo’s street-level knowledge of Granite State politics is what Santorum needs most to stay alive past January.
Photo: Getty Images || Inset: Google

In January, Rick Santorum locked up Mike Biundo as his top operative in New Hampshire, then this fall made Biundo his national campaign manager. Biundo can hone Santorum’s rescue-the-culture message — in 1996, he helped deliver New Hampshire for Pat Buchanan, when the culture-warrior upset frontrunner Bob Dole. But Biundo’s street-level knowledge of Granite State politics is what Santorum needs most to stay alive past January.

Newt Gingrich and Michael Krull

Did Newt’s campaign staff bail in June because of Newt’s chaotic and half-hearted campaigning? Or did they simply quit to go work for their old boss, Rick Perry? Underfunded and undermanned, Newt turned to lieutenants from his now-defunct fundraising and advocacy group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, including campaign director Michael Krull and press aide R.C. Hammond.
Photo: Getty Images || Inset: Facebook

Did Newt Gingrich’s campaign staff bail in June because of his chaotic and half-hearted campaigning? Or did they simply quit to go work for their old boss Perry? Underfunded and undermanned, Gingrich turned to lieutenants from his now-defunct fundraising and advocacy group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, including campaign director Michael Krull and press aide R.C. Hammond.

Michele Bachmann and Keith Nahigian (Campaign Ended)

Bachmann herself might be confused about who heads her brain trust. After quitting her campaign in September, former Reagan strategist Ed Rollins has kept ties—his replacement, Keith Nahigian, is a Rollins acolyte—but has also badmouthed her chances. Bachmann’s survival may depend more on her hiring of alums from Mike Huckabee’s 2008 bid, like spokesperson Alice Stewart and Iowa director Eric Woolson. Their evangelical Christian foot soldiers, who propelled Huck to victory four years ago in Iowa
Photo: Getty Images || Inset: nahigianstrategies.com

Michele Bachmann herself might be confused about who heads her brain trust. After quitting her campaign in September, former Reagan strategist Ed Rollins has kept ties — his replacement, Keith Nahigian, is a Rollins acolyte — but has also badmouthed her chances. Bachmann’s survival may depend more on her hiring of alums from Mike Huckabee’s 2008 bid, such as spokesperson Alice Stewart and Iowa director Eric Woolson. Their evangelical Christian foot soldiers, who propelled Huckabee to victory four years ago in Iowa, will attempt to turn out a must-win group for Bachmann.

Herman Cain and Mark Block

Now famous as the cigarette-smoking star of Cain 2012’s controversial web ad, Mark Block was elected at 18 to county office in Wisconsin, and was a prominent political strategist in the state until 2001, when he was banned briefly from political activity for alleged campaign-funding irregularities. His comeback began when he met Cain while barnstorming for Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-aligned group funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch. Between his smoke-blowing w
Photos: Getty Images

Mark Block — now famous as the cigarette-smoking star of Herman Cain 2012’s controversial web ad — was elected at 18 to county office in Wisconsin and was a prominent political strategist in the state until 2001, when he was banned briefly from political activity for alleged campaign-funding irregularities. His comeback began when he met Cain while barnstorming for Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-aligned group funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch. Between his smoke-blowing web-ad and new allegations of illegal payments for Cain campaign expenses, Block has committed the strategist’s cardinal sin — becoming the story.

Updated: Campaign suspended

Jon Huntsman and Jon Weaver (Campaign Ended)

Huntsman returned from China, where he was President Obama’s ambassador, to find seasoned GOP strategist Jon Weaver at the head of a campaign that was lacking only its candidate. A controversial figure in the party, Weaver had blow-ups with Bush adviser Karl Rove when the two were rival campaign warriors in Texas; and after pulling off brilliant victories in the 2000 and 2007 Republican primaries for Sen. John McCain, he was forced off the team. Huntsman recently quieted rumblings that Weaver wa
Photo: Getty Images || Inset: Roberto Schmidt | AFP | Getty Images

Jon Huntsman returned from China, where he was President Barack Obama’s ambassador, to find seasoned GOP strategist Jon Weaver at the head of a campaign that was lacking only its candidate. A controversial figure in the party, Weaver had blow-ups with Bush adviser Karl Rove when the two were rival campaign warriors in Texas. After pulling off brilliant victories in the 2000 and 2007 Republican primaries for Sen. John McCain, Weaver was forced off the team. Huntsman recently quieted rumblings that Weaver was headed for the same fate this year.

Rick Perry and Dave Carney (Campaign Ended)

A veteran of Bob Dole’s losing 1996 presidential bid, Dave Carney has worked for Rick Perry since the Texan began running for statewide office in 1998. Carney also has deeps ties to—and owns an island in New Hampshire with—Perry’s fellow former Texas legislator and longtime supporter Mike Toomey. Carney began the current campaign in Newt Gingrich’s camp; when Carney departed in June, it was an early sign that Perry was gearing up for a run.
Photo: Getty Images || nahigianstrategies.com || Inset: Douglas Graham | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images

A veteran of Bob Dole’s losing 1996 presidential bid, Dave Carney has worked for Rick Perry since the Texan began running for statewide office in 1998. Carney also has deeps ties to — and owns an island in New Hampshire with — Perry’s fellow former Texas legislator and longtime supporter Mike Toomey. Carney began the current campaign in Newt Gingrich’s c when Carney departed in June, it was an early sign that Perry was gearing up for a run.