CONCORD, N.H. -- Ed Rollins, a former advisor to Ronald Reagan and Ross Perot, officially announced he will be joining Mike Huckabee as campaign chair and senior advisor.
At a news conference this afternoon, Rollins said that of all the candidates running for president, Huckabee was the guy he knew "least about" at the beginning of the race. Rollins said Huckabee has "probably inspired me as much as Ronald Reagan" in his "core convictions" and "ability to communicate."
A lot of people talk about the next Ronald Reagan, said Rollins, but "I can promise you this man comes as close as anyone to fill in those shoes."
The campaign, said Rollins, would not be a "traditional" organization but a "volunteer grassroots campaign." Rollins said his job will be to make sure Huckabee "won't be sunk by lack of infrastructure."
Perhaps alluding to recent attacks on Huckabee, Rollins anticipated that everything Huckabee had done as governor and preacher would be "looked at, as it should be" but "equally important," he added, would be that "we would always be prepared to give you the answers when asked for it." Up to this point, journalists have been frustrated by lags in communication with the campaign staff.
In the past, Rollins had said it would cost $100 million to run a successful campaign. But Rollins said today that not everyone could raise that kind of money and, with the exception of Romney who was independently rich, none of the candidates had enough money to campaign in every single state. He also expressed doubts on whether television ads could "move any numbers" since Huckabee has been able to drive "free media."
"This started out as an election unlike I've ever seen," observed Rollins, who said it was so "frontloaded" that if "you weren't rich, or you weren't famous, you didn't stand much of a chance."
What the rise of Obama and Huckabee on either party has meant, Rollins said, is that people "are going to choose who they want to. There's no such thing as an inevitable nominee."
Asked how he was going to run a grassroots campaign as an "establishment Republican," Rollins reminded the audience that Reagan became the "establishment" only after becoming president.
"This is a unique campaign for me," said Rollins. "This is the only campaign where there is no donuts and no booze."
Rollins said this will be his last campaign – "My wife has divorced me, my daughter won't talk to me and I'm too old." Rollins joked that the line that bothered him the most in an upcoming New York Times Magazine article was not the one where Huckabee asked if Mormons believed that Jesus and the devil were brothers. It was that Huckabee wakes up at 4:30 a.m. runs 6 to 8 miles.
"Please don't wake me up when you're going out," joked Rollins.