Campaign managers get the big stories, but with polls showing the economy, unemployment, and health care remain voters' primary concerns, persuasive conservative policy proposals will also be central in to the contest for Republican primary votes in the upcoming race unseat President Obama.
To that end, two of the GOP's top presidential contenders -- Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney -- have already hired policy directors to help formulate formal platforms. But a look at the backgrounds of these directors shows that even as the candidates seek to woo the new tea party wing of the GOP, their policy men are more in the mold of Bush-era conservatives than tea party ones.
Former governor Pawlenty, the first GOP candidate to announce a presidential exploratory committee, was also the first to employ a policy director, hiring Brian Hook to that post at his Freedom First political action committee in January. Hook is a veteran of the Bush administration, having worked at both the State and Justice Departments over the course of the 43rd president's two terms. A graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law who has also worked in private practice, he joined the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy in 2003 under Assistant Attorney Generals Jay Bybee (2001-2003) and then Jack Goldsmith (2003-2004), where he worked on judicial nominees and represented the Executive Branch before the 9/11 Commission. The following year he was appointed Special Assistant to the President for Policy in the Office of Chief of Staff Andrew Card, where he focused on homeland security, domestic policy and the environment. Prior credits include serving as senior advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, and also as the ambassador's lead negotiator on Security Council resolutions imposing multilateral sanctions on Iran, Sudan, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Like his "Sam's Club" meets policy-wonk-boss, the Washington Post reported Hook is a good communicator, having been "praised inside the Bush White House for his ability to distill complex policy issues."