Who's to blame for Huntsman's flop?

Who's to blame for Huntsman's flop?
Consultant or candidate: who takes the blame after the former Utah governor bows out?

This cycle has already seen an accelerated version of the blame game play out in the political media -- and that was even before Rick Perry finished fifth in Iowa. Consultants or candidate, who eats crow for the failure of a presidential campaign?

Ahead of Jon Huntsman’s suspension of his effort on Monday, members of his camp were busy pointing fingers. Some were directed at his chief consultant, John Weaver, while unnamed sources were pointing back at Huntsman and his wealthy father for failing to pump in the necessary cash. At the end of the day, there seems to be more than enough blame to go around.

His campaign didn’t release its year-end fundraising numbers, which aren’t due to the Federal Election Commission until Jan. 31. But its last FEC filing showed it raised $4.5 million between May and September, some $2.2 million of which came from the former governor's own pocket. Meanwhile, Huntsman also was boosted by some $2 million spent on TV and radio ads in New Hampshire ahead of the primary by Our Destiny PAC, an independent group bankrolled by Jon Huntsman Sr. That’s according to figures compiled by Smart Media Group. 

By comparison, Huntsman’s competitors were doubling and tripling his fundraising. In the last quarter of 2011, not the same period of Huntsman’s last report but a good benchmark, Mitt Romney raised $24 million, Paul raised $13 million and Newt Gingrich pulled in $9 million.

Huntsman’s fundraising was small beans for a man with a contender's resume.

While Huntsman can be blamed for the failure to secure financing, his operatives deserve to be faulted for the all-eggs-in-one-basket strategy. The Huntsman camp decided not to play in Iowa, presumably because it figured the Christian conservative caucus goers weren't his natural constituency. Instead, the former governor of Utah planted his flag in New Hampshire, headquartering his campaign there.

In late 2011, the Huntsman camp told C&E it had 10 to 13 staff dedicated to the Granite State, but at least a half dozen more working out of its Manchester HQ. Meanwhile, he had two staffers and a consultant in South Carolina after suffering defections to Gingrich, of all people.

Now, other candidates have attempted to make a singular stand in the front-loaded modern primary calendar. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for instance, became a cautionary tale for making Florida his Waterloo. But the Giuliani camp actually started off with a two-state strategy. His presidential effort started in 2007 with the intention to play in New Hampshire and Florida. It wasn’t until his numbers plummeted in the Granite State that his camp decided to refocus his resources on Florida.

Huntsman’s strategy allowed much less room to maneuver. Like Giuliani, he had a presence in Florida -- even opening an office in Orlando. But his campaign never placed any emphasis on his effort there, which meant he didn't have the luxury of being able to spin his third-place New Hampshire finish as anything but the end of his campaign.

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