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Durant Hiring Wadhams

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry will get the headlines, but behind the scenes and in the hallways of the Grand Hotel here on Mackinac Island, Michigan Republicans are getting a harder sell from candidates who want the opportunity to take on Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra may be the front-runner at the moment; the Holland Republican lost his bid for the gubernatorial nomination in 2010, but his time in office has given him a solid fundraising and political base.

Before he gets a clean shot at Stabenow, Hoekstra must get through a host of other Republicans. The one who will give Hoekstra the most trouble: Former state Board of Education president Clark Durant.

Durant backers spin the race as a battle between the establishment, which backs Hoekstra, and outsider conservatives who like their guy. But a lot of those supporters are establishment types themselves, like former Sen. Spence Abraham, former state party chairman Saul Anuzis and his brother, Republican activist Andy Anuzis.

Lest anyone not take Durant seriously, Saul Anuzis has helped him bring in a big-time campaign manager: Dick Wadhams. Wadhams ran Sen. John Thune's, R-S.D., 2004 contest against then-Sen. Tom Daschle, then helmed George Allen's unsuccessful 2006 re-election race in Virginia. After that race, he headed back to his home state of Colorado to head the state Republican Party (Where he backed Anuzis in his bid for Republican National Committee chairman).

Keep an eye on this primary. It's going to be a good race.

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