Tim Pawlenty Taps Nick Ayers as Campaign Manager

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Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty's buildout continues as the first major formally declared GOP presidential contender. Reports Shira Toeplitz in Roll Call:

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has tapped Nick Ayers, one of the most sought-after GOP operatives in the country, to be the campaign manager of his presidential exploratory committee.

Ayers, the former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, will take the helm of Pawlenty's bid for the White House when he is expected to forge ahead with his full-blown campaign for the presidency, a Pawlenty source confirmed. Fox News first reported the 28-year-old's hire Sunday evening.

Ayers served as the top strategist at the RGA in the 2008 and 2010 cycles -- the latter of which was under the chairmanship of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, another potential presidential candidate actively looking at a bid. Ayers also worked at the RGA with Pawlenty, who served as the group's vice chairman last cycle.

Ayer's tenure at the RGA -- and for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's campaign's and office before that -- has earned him powerful Republican connections, though also, apparently, some still-embittered Democratic ones. In January, Ben Smith "tracked an anonymous site set up to attack Ayers to the IP address of a Georgia Democratic consulting firm with informal ties to former governor and losing 2010 gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes."

Of note, Ayers is relatively young for such a senior job, just as he was for his last one. He became executive director of the RGA in 2006 at the tender age of 24, and was the youngest person ever to serve in the position.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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