Chris Cillizza, as usual, has the scoop:
Eric Woolson, a top aide to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.) in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, has signed on with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty for the coming 2012 contest, according to two sources familiar with the decision.
Woolson was at the center of Huckabee’s stunning victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses and his decision to switch camps will be read as an indication that the former Arkansas governor is leaning against a return run for president.
Huckabee allies insist that idea is misguided, noting that while Woolson was a trusted ally in 2008, he is not part of the governor’s inner circle…
Woolson’s hire is also a sign of Pawlenty’s big bet on Iowa where his team clearly believes he must win — or perform above expectations in order to have a real shot at the Republican nomination.
Pawlenty is assembling quite the impressive team in Iowa thus far:
Woolson, who served as communications director in Iowa for the caucus campaign of then Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000, will join Annie Kelly on Pawlenty’s Iowa team. Kelly, who served as deputy campaign manager for Pawlenty’s 2006 gubernatorial race and ran his Freedom First PAC, moved to Des Moines a few weeks ago.
And, Pawlenty has several other Iowa aces up his sleeve — most notably Terry Nelson who, for a time, managed John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and former Bush White House political director Sara Taylor. Both are Iowa natives.
It’s clear that Pawlenty is following a similar strategy as Mitt Romney in 2007/2008: lavish attention, time, and money on Iowa and hope a strong finish there propels him to victory elsewhere. If Huckabee ends up not running, as this hire may suggest, Pawlenty might have a good shot at succeeding at that strategy.
UPDATE: Woolson’s decision to join Team Pawlenty comes after a private meeting with Huckabee last week, as Huckabee’s book tour passed through Iowa…