WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Jon Huntsman's campaign manager resigned Thursday only a month after the former Utah governor launched his presidential bid, raising fresh questions about the campaign's prospects in a crowded GOP field.
Huntsman, who served as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China, opened his presidential campaign in June with a high-profile announcement at the same northern New Jersey park where Ronald Reagan launched his 1980 presidential run, with the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop.
The campaign has struggled to gain traction, ranking in the single digits in early national polls as well as in surveys in early nominating states.
Huntsman's campaign said in a statement that campaign manager Susie Wiles would be replaced by Matt David, who had served as the campaign's communications director. John Weaver, a senior Huntsman adviser, said Wiles was "vital in getting (the campaign) off the ground in such a short time-frame."
"In just under three months Gov. Huntsman has returned from China, launched a campaign and created a strong infrastructure in the three early primary states," Weaver said. "Now the campaign is moving into phase two, which will be more aggressive from a messaging and tactical standpoint, and Matt is prepared to take that on."
Wiles' resignation was first reported by The Washington Post.
The former Utah governor has raised more than $4 million for his presidential bid, with about half of it coming from the candidate's personal wealth.
Huntsman has tried to become the primary alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon who is making his second attempt at the Republican nomination. Huntsman remains unknown to many voters and has trailed Romney and other Republican rivals in early polls.
Huntsman was a popular governor of a conservative state, but his moderate stances on climate change and civil unions for same-sex couples along with his role as the Obama administration top diplomat in China could hurt him with conservative voters.
Largely bypassing Iowa, Huntsman has focused his efforts in New Hampshire, where independent voters may cast ballots in either party's primary, hoping to use a strong showing in the nation's first primary state to build momentum for primaries in South Carolina, Florida and beyond.
Wiles ran Florida Gov. Rick Scott's 2010 campaign. David is a veteran of the presidential campaigns of John McCain and George W. Bush and was a top aide to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ken Thomas can be reached at http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas