The Return of Nick Ayers

Bells may ring in the memories of some political junkies–particularly those familiar with Georgia politics–when the name “Nick Ayers” is mentioned. Ayers was a College Republican activist and student at Kennesaw State University in 2002 when he signed up for and played a surprisingly significantly role in the upset gubernatorial victory of Sonny Perdue. When Perdue ran for re-election, Ayers was his campaign manager. The next year, he became Executive Director of the Republican Governors’ Association, and got a lot of credit for the boffo performance of GOP gubernatorial candidates that year. The word “wunderkind” was often attached to him.

Indeed, when Ayers passed up a run for RNC chairman and then surfaced as Tim Pawlenty’s campaign manager for the 2012 presidential cycle, his presence was one of the reasons TPaw looked so very good on paper. But until today I can’t recall seeing Ayers’ name in print after Pawlenty crashed and burned at the Ames Straw Poll three years ago.

But he’s been a busy boy, especially back in his ancestral stomping grounds.

According to a long, fascinating piece by Russ Choma at the Open Secrets blog, Ayers has been at the center of several Super PAC operations that, among other venues, poured over $2 million into attack ads on Rep. Jack Kingston in the recently concluded Republican Senate primary and runoff. It also seems Kingston’s rival David Perdue used a firm run by Ayers for a lot of its own ad buys. As you might know, David is Sonny Perdue’s cousin.

Choma pulled together much of his information in an effort to show that the SuperPACs and Perdue’s campaign illegally coordinated their activities via Ayers. But any way you cut it, the wunderkind is big and bad and back in the Peach State–at the ripe old age of 31. If his candidates do well this year (he’s also heavily involved in the campaigns of Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton and Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner), I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes another run at the White House in 2016.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.