The New York Times reports that Nick Ayers, the former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, will be joining the Tim Pawlenty 2012 team as its campaign manager. The announcement comes as a bit of a surprise to political insiders, since Ayers's successful tenure at the RGA came while Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, himself considered a potential presidential candidate, led the organization. Ayers was thought of as a close ally of Barbour.

Here's Pawlenty on the hire:

"He is without question one of the best political talents in America," Pawlenty said of the former Republican Governors Association executive director. "We are very excited Nick will lead our team. His leadership and record of winning tough races in every part of our country will provide even more momentum to our campaign to get America back on track."

Ayers began his political career as a 19-year-old college dropout who helped state senator Sonny Perdue become the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction. He was campaign manager for Perdue's successful reelection bid in 2006 and joined the RGA the following year. At just 28 years old, Ayers gets a lot of credit for the success of Republican governors in last November's election. (For more, check out the Washington Post's profile of Ayers from nearly a year ago.)

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