Jacksonville’s Susie Wiles, the former campaign manager for Gov. Rick Scott, has joined the team of would-be GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Wiles was working closely with Romney opponent Jon Huntsman until July, when she left her position as campaign manager.
At the time, Wiles said “it was just time” to leave the Huntsman campaign, saying she had only signed up “to get [the campaign] started.”
Wiles has now been named as a co-chair of Romney’s Florida advisory council.
Wiles’ husband, veteran Republican advance man Lanny Wiles, remained with Huntsman until August, when he also left the campaign. Though he said at the time that he remained “an avid supporter of Governor Huntsman,” he, too, now appears to be backing Romney.
By giving Wiles a title, Romney’s camp is tweaking Huntsman, who has been a relentless antagonist. That Team Mitt is even paying enough attention to Huntsman to essentially mock him is in its own way something of an honor. Romney, while taking on Rick Perry earlier this fall and more recently lighting into Newt Gingrich, has largely ignored his fellow Mormon.
Sources familiar with Wiles’ thinking indicate that she’s signing up with Romney now because she’s concerned about Huntsman’s refusal to rule out running as a third-party candidate. Appearing at town hall meeting in New Hampshire over the weekend, where he’s staking his entire campaign, the former Utah governor again dodged the question.
Of course, given the circumstances behind her departure it’s unlikely that Wiles would stlll be supporting her former boss’s candidacy, regardless of his third-party intentions. But with New Hampshire appearing ever more crucial to Romney’s hopes of winning the nomination, his camp wants to weaken Huntsman. Reminding Republicans that he’s open to the prospect of an independent run helps that cause. With Gingrich surging on the right, Romney now needs all the center-right votes he can get.
In addition to being a driving force behind Scott’s successful gubernatorial campaign, Wiles also acted as a top advisor to two former Jacksonville mayors: John Peyton and John Delaney.