KSU Alum Nick Ayers has full-grown plans for a Republican return to the White House

By Jason Horowitz Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, April 27, 2010 To call Nick Ayers the…

Georgia (Apr 28, 2010)

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/26/AR2010042603992.html

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To call Nick Ayers the bright young future of the Republican Party is to ignore that the future has already arrived.
"We're the largest political committee in town," says Ayers, the 27-year-old executive director of the Republican Governors Association.
 
Ensconced a block from the White House, Ayers is a leading player in the GOP's plan to use the momentum of statewide victories in 2010 to knock President Obama out of office in 2012. The Georgia native, who left college as a 19-year-old freshman to help elect Gov. Sonny Perdue,the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction, is now a veteran Washington hand, bantering with Obama during East Wing receptions and serving as a confidant and strategist to a spate of governors, including the committee's chairman, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
 
Since taking the helm in January 2007, Ayers has transformed the creaky committee into a tight ship that has attracted Republican money bundlers disillusioned with Michael Steele's Republican National Committee and its spending sprees.
On a Wednesday afternoon, Ayers, wearing a blue pinstripe suit, chunky silver watch and the blond hair of a barbershop's model book, bounds around the second-floor office. He shows off camouflage-and-shotgun pictures of himself and Barbour standing over a dead quail, or of himself and Perdue crouching over dead turkeys.
 
He avoids his polished desk, saying he can't sit still for too long, and steps over to the overlapping whiteboards on the wall where he drafts policy and talking points for his candidates, keeps track of their finances and lists his core principles ("No Drama," "We Are All Fundraisers"). Outside his office, he eagerly talks up his communications team, his new-media geeks and the guy who just sold an iPhone app. Almost everyone looks young enough to be carded.
 
Boasting a runner's build, Ayers cuts across the office, past the mostly empty gray cubicles, over to the finance team's wall. The women have taped papers to their doors reading "I {heart}" over a picture of the actor Jay Mohr. ("They think he looks like me," Ayers says sheepishly.)
 
He knocks on a door at the end of the hallway and mouths, "Who you on the phone with?" to a woman on a conference call. She mouths a name back, and he quietly closes the door.
 
"That's a big-money guy, great!" he shouts. Then he walks over to the conference room and introduces his deputy and old college-era buddy Paul Bennecke. The two reminisce about the dives they dwelled in as young advisers for Perdue.
"Everywhere you looked out our balcony you'd see rats," says Bennecke, 31, who also wears a sharp business suit.
 
"It was 'affordable housing,' " Ayers says, making air quotes over the words. He clarifies. "The projects."
 
Behind him hangs a framed 28-star American flag quilt dated 1884. "Pre me, the RGA used to spend money on art," Ayers says, disparagingly. "That's really going to help us win the Wisconsin governor's race this year. A quilt."
 
Ayers says some things that he probably shouldn't say. Ask him if he has children, and he volunteers that due to his busy schedule, he and his wife, Jamie, "didn't really have sex for the first three years of our marriage."
 
And he has done some things he probably shouldn't have done. "They dropped the DUI charge," he says of his 2006 arrest in Georgia. "That's really important."
 
He tweets some things he probably shouldn't tweet. "It's beautiful here," he wrote in a January post imagining a deal by which New York Gov. David Paterson, who is blind, might be sent to New Zealand. "Have you not seen it? Oh right, sorry."
 
And yet, it is hard to overstate just how charming Ayers is. His Southern gentry affect is backed up with self-made substance. He's got that round Georgia accent and the whole smooth-talking thing down pat. Visitors to his office receive a plastic cup of coffee that reads "Waffle House" on the side, and with it a story of how he asked the Georgia company's CEO for a "big favor" -- to send "the beans, the cups, the grinder, everything" -- and a "small favor" of a quarter-million-dollar contribution. He got both.
His charm oozes across the aisle: He counts Nathan Daschle, his counterpart on the Democratic Governors Association, as a friend and onetime hunting buddy ("He's a very good shot," says Daschle). In a February 2009 reception at the White House for governors, Ayers introduced himself to the president, and says Obama responded, "It's encouraging that you are running a committee at your age. That's what this town needs."
 
Later in the evening, he claims, Obama came back over to say goodbye, at which point Ayers introduced the president to Daschle. "Did you just introduce me to the [bleeping] president?" he recounts Daschle saying.
 
Daschle calls that version about "60 percent right." The son of former Obama mentor Tom Daschle says he had already met the president several times.
 
Running a tight ship
 
"I'm going to take my coat off," Ayers says in his office.
 
Leaning forward over a round coffee table, elbows on thighs, fingertips steepled in a politician's prayer, Ayers, a onetime Little League pitcher, explains why donors would be better served putting their money with him than, say, Steele and the RNC.
"I think our finances speak for themselves," Ayers says. "I don't have the details of theirs."
 


 

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