Ge­or­gian Ay­ers a con­tender to re­place Trump chief of staff

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - NATION & WORLD - By Ta­mar Haller­man ta­mar.haller­[email protected] and Greg Bluestein [email protected]

Nick Ay­ers, a well-con­nected Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive who got his start in pol­i­tics work­ing for Sonny Per­due, has resur­faced as a lead­ing con­tender for White House chief of staff amid fresh re­ports that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has soured on his cur­rent top aide.

The 36-year-old Mable­ton na­tive has long been seen as a pos­si­ble re­place­ment for John Kelly, the re­tired U.S. Marine Corps gen­eral who has feuded of­ten with the pres­i­dent. A fresh wave of spec­u­la­tion emerged Fri­day.

Trump has told ad­vis­ers he wanted a more po­lit­i­cally savvy deputy af­ter Repub­li­cans lost the U.S. House in the Novem­ber midterms and took a beat­ing in sub­ur­ban ar­eas across the na­tion.

As the top aide to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, Ay­ers won Trump’s ad­mi­ra­tion for in­su­lat­ing his boss from the chaos that’s fre­quently en­gulfed the West Wing. A con­sum­mate net­worker, Ay­ers has also cul­ti­vated the sup­port of key Trump fam­ily members, in­clud­ing Don­ald Jr. and Ivanka Trump.

Ay­ers is known to have political am­bi­tions of his own. His name was briefly floated as a pos­si­ble Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial con­tender last year, but he passed on the op­por­tu­nity af­ter Pence of­fered him the chance to be his top staffer.

His me­te­oric political rise be­gan as a teenager, when he took time off from Ken­ne­saw State Univer­sity in 2002 to serve as the “body man” to Per­due dur­ing his first run for gover­nor. Four years later, Ay­ers ran Per­due’s suc­cess­ful re-elec­tion cam­paign.

He went on to be­come the youngest-ever head of the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion and then was an ad­viser to Min­nesota Gov. Tim Paw­lenty’s ill-fated 2012 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Af­ter­ward, he built a con­sult­ing busi­ness that was wildly suc­cess­ful in help­ing a slew of Repub­li­cans get elected, in­clud­ing Pence and Ge­or­gia U.S. Sen. David Per­due — but he also drew out­side scru­tiny for how much it grew in such a short pe­riod of time. Should he ac­cept the po­si­tion as Trump’s third chief of staff, Ay­ers would be tak­ing one of Washington’s most high-pro­file yet gru­el­ing jobs ahead of a re-elec­tion cam­paign.

Nick Ay­ers

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