Huckabee daughter joins Pawlenty campaign

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on "The Early Show," Tuesday, June 14, 2011.
Tim Pawlenty
Tim Pawlenty

Updated 4:45 p.m. Eastern Time

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of Mike Huckabee, has joined the presidential campaign of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as senior political adviser. The move appears designed to boost Pawlenty's chances in the key first-in-the-nation voting state of Iowa.

Sanders served as national political director for her father in the 2008 presidential campaign, when he won the Iowa caucuses despite little support from the Republican political establishment.

According to a release from the Pawlenty campaign, Sanders will take the lead in Pawlenty's effort to win next month's Iowa Straw Poll, a key test of support and organization in the state, and will work to expand the Pawlenty's campaign's grassroots operations in the state.

Pawlenty hailed Sanders as "a results-oriented person with a great track record in Iowa and around the country" in announcing the hire.

Sanders, who served as campaign manager for John Boozman's successful Senate campaign in Arkansas in 2010, said in an interview following the announcement that "I wouldn't have jumped on if I didn't think that [Pawlenty] could win" the nomination.

Asked if her joining the campaign will serve as a signal to former Huckabee voters to back Pawlenty, she said, "I hope that people will get behind the governor that supported my dad, but I hope it's because they see in him what I do...not because I jumped on board."

Pawlenty, who unveiled a new Iowa campaign ad Tuesdaystressing "results, not rhetoric," has struggled to gain traction in the presidential race despite being one of the first big-name candidates to begin campaigning and organizing. His campaign said late last week he had raised 4.2 million in campaign funds in the three months through June, about as much as fellow contender Jon Huntsman but far less than the expected haul of another rival, Mitt Romney.

Pawlenty needs a strong showing in Iowa to convince donors that he is a viable candidate going forward, and he is aggressively campaigning in the state. A Des Moines Register poll late last month showed Pawlenty with just 6 percent of the Iowa Republican vote, with Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann leading the pack with 23 and 22 percent respectively.

Sanders said Pawlenty was in a "good position" despite the early polls, saying that "I don't think the numbers [at this point] are ever indicative of a winner."

Pawlenty, she added, is "in a very similar position to that my dad was in at this time four years ago."