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Pawlenty adds Iowa political director, makes first South Carolina hire

WASHINGTON — Tim Pawlenty this week tapped his first South Carolina staffer, and today added a political director in Iowa, the latest editions to a large, expensive and growing staff infrastructure Pawlenty is building throughout early voting states.

Matt Whitaker, a Des Moines lawyer and former U.S. attorney, will be chair Pawlenty’s Iowa Steering Committee. Whitaker was the 2002 GOP nominee for state treasurer, once worked as a lawyer for Briggs & Morgan in the Twin Cities and played in the 1991 Rose Bowl as a tight end for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team.

Interesting to maybe only me: When announcing the hire, Pawlenty cited just two things on Whitaker’s resume — his time as a U.S. Attorney and his Rose Bowl appearance.

“Matt Whitaker is a man who knows what’s important and he gets things done,” Pawlenty said in a statement announcing that hire. “That’s been true from his days as a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes team that played in the Rose Bowl to his determination as a U.S. Attorney who prosecuted dangerous criminals and put them behind bars. Iowans know and respect Matt Whitaker. We’re very happy and blessed to have him on our team.”

Pawlenty has also now expanded into South Carolina, adding Kurt Pickhardt to be his political director for the first-in-the-south primary. Pickhardt, until last week, was the operations director for the South Carolina state GOP and, at age 26, is considered a rising star in Palmetto State politics.

CNN, which first reported that hire, explained the move further.

In hiring the 26-year old Pickhardt, Pawlenty is bypassing the traditional route of hiring an entrenched political consultant to help steer the primary operation, opting instead to tap into a deep bench of young and often overlooked political talent in the state.

Pawlenty’s pollster Jon Lerner also has deep South Carolina ties, having advised both Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley on their way to the governor’s mansion.

Pickhardt began with Pawlenty earlier this week.

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