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South Carolina’s unemployment rate remains among the highest in the nation, but if you’re a Republican political hack willing to throw your support behind one of several equally unsavory GOP presidential options … work abounds. Thanks to the quadrennial “First in the South” presidential primary, our little backwoods banana republic is teeming with political job opportunities.

We haven’t written many stories about which Palmetto political operatives are working for whose presidential campaigns because frankly we don’t care … this is a positively atrocious field, people, and besides – the value of consultants is plummeting as voters are focusing less on rhetoric and more on candidates’ bottom line positions.

Want to mount a competitive campaign in South Carolina (or anywhere)? Hire a fiscally conservative policy analyst … and then tell people precisely how you’re going to cut taxes and spending.

Anyway, there’s been plenty of political hiring going on in anticipation of next year’s big primary – but many of the bigger names in the field have been holding off on hiring S.C. hands.

Also a lot of talented Palmetto politicos – like Charleston-based media guru Chris Drummond, veteran Columbia strategist Bob McAlister, SCGOP executive director Joel Sawyer, Club for Growth state director Matt Moore and new media specialist Wesley Donehue – are still in the free agent pool.

After mounting a full-court press in South Carolina in 2008 (en route to a disappointing fourth place finish), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – generally considered to be the national front-runner – appears to be focusing his energies elsewhere in 2012. Not only has he refrained from hiring any Palmetto political operatives this go-round, but he’s skipping next month’s GOP presidential primary debate in Greenville, S.C.

Meanwhile Mike Huckabee – who leads the field among southern voters and who would likely be the front-runner in South Carolina if he decides to run – has yet to hire a consultant in South Carolina. Sources tell FITS that he has had extensive talks with S.C. Rep. Rick Quinn, Jr., though.

Real estate mogul Donald Trump and former Vice President Sarah Palin? As far as we can tell neither of these big-name, big-money candidates has hired anybody in South Carolina. Also, with the exception of one book signing back in December, Palin hasn’t been seen in the Palmetto state since.

Second-tier contenders, however, have been busy making visits and scooping up operatives left and right.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for example, has been attending local GOP conventions and has hired former SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson and Walter Whetsell to manage his South Carolina efforts.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has also been a regular visitor to the Palmetto state and has hired Charleston-based consultant Jim Dyke to run his national communications effort. He’s also picked up veteran consultant J. Warren Tompkins (who backed Romney in 2008) and Upstate Republican Chip Felkel.

Richard Quinn, Sr. – arguably the most powerful political consultant in the state – is backing former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, as is former Mark Sanford aide Chris Allen. Both supported John McCain in 2008. Earlier this week it was announced that Jon Lerner – Sanford’s former pollster and Gov. Nikki Haley’s top political advisor – would be advising former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Another Minnesotan, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, has hired GOP activist Sheri Few to organize her South Carolina efforts.

Got any scoop of possible presidential hires? Feel free to post them in our comments section below …

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