WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign has gone through its second shake-up in a year. Responding to Republican concerns that his candidacy was faltering, Mr. McCain put a veteran of President Bush’s 2004 campaign in charge of day-to-day operations, and stepped away from a plan to have the campaign run by 11 regional managers, Mr. McCain’s aides said Wednesday.
The elevation of Steve Schmidt — who worked closely with Karl Rove — at Mr. McCain’s headquarters represented a sharp diminishment of the responsibilities of Rick Davis, who has been Mr. McCain’s campaign manager since the last shake-up nearly a year ago.
The shift was approved by Mr. McCain after several of his aides, including Mr. Schmidt, went to him about 10 days ago and warned him that he was in danger of losing the presidential election unless he revamped his campaign operation, two officials close to the campaign said.
The move of Mr. Schmidt is the latest sign of increasing influence of veterans of Mr. Rove’s shop in the McCain operation. Nicolle Wallace, communications director for Mr. Bush in the 2004 campaign (and in his White House), has joined the campaign as a senior adviser, and will travel with Mr. McCain every other week.
Greg Jenkins, another veteran of Mr. Rove’s operation who is a former Fox News producer and director of presidential advance in the Bush White House, was hired by Mr. Schmidt last week after a series of what Mr. McCain’s advisers acknowledged were poorly executed campaign events.
Mr. Rove, who was Mr. Bush’s senior political adviser until he left the White House last year, was said by Mr. McCain’s advisers to have offered advice in recent days to Mr. Schmidt and others on how to get Mr. McCain’s campaign on track, but has stayed mostly on the periphery. Mr. Rove is aware, his associates said, that his own legacy could be helped should Mr. McCain win the presidency.
Mr. McCain’s advisers said that Mr. Davis would continue to hold the position of campaign manager, but that Mr. Schmidt had taken over every major operation where Mr. McCain has shown signs of struggling: communications, scheduling and basic political strategy. Mr. McCain’s aides said that Mr. Davis would now focus more on longer-term campaign efforts, including helping with the selection of a running mate and planning for the Republican National Convention, which is now just two months away.
Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Davis declined a request for comment. The McCain campaign played down the significance of this latest personnel shift.
“Voters don’t care about the organizational chart of our campaign,” said Jill Hazelbaker, the campaign spokesman, adding: “Today’s move is simply an expression of our understanding of the need to scale up for a general election campaign against Barack Obama.”
Republican circles have been awash with rumors for weeks now that Mr. McCain would seek to bring Mike Murphy, a longtime friend and adviser who helped direct his 2000 campaign for the White House, back into the fold. Mr. McCain’s advisers, noting the deep tensions between Mr. Murphy and many of the people in Mr. McCain’s inner circle — including Mr. Davis and Mr. Schmidt — said such a development was highly unlikely.
Similarly, Mr. McCain’s aides said it was unlikely that John Weaver, another longtime McCain friend who left in the midst of the last shake-up, would return. “Not enough bayonets to make me do this,” Mr. Weaver said in an e-mail response to a question.
The last shake-up occurred at the beginning of last July as Mr. McCain’s campaign was bleeding money, riven by infighting, and the candidate was trailing in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. For all the negative commentary that shake-up drew to Mr. McCain, it had its desired result, a reminder that campaign upheavals are not necessarily a bad thing.
In an early insight into the impact of Mr. Schmidt’s new role, the campaign is planning what will amount to a restarting of Mr. McCain’s candidacy after Independence Day, in which he will tour the country talking about a jobs program and visiting battleground states intended to illustrate the economic woes he will be talking about: Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan.
By contrast, in appearances that drew widespread derision by Republicans — and whoops of delight from Democrats — Mr. McCain delivered a speech in which he came out in favor of off-shore drilling first before an audience of oil executives in Houston, and repeated it in a speech in Santa Barbara, Calif., a locale long identified with opposition to off-shore drilling.
In abandoning Mr. Davis’s idea to have the campaign largely run by 11 regional campaign managers, Mr. Schmidt told associates that he feared that system was unworkable and would lead to gridlock in the campaign. He is also about to hire a political director, a post that had gone unfilled under Mr. Davis.
There were other signs that Republicans were trying to get back on track in the fight with Senator Obama. The Republican National Committee this week formed an independent expenditure committee to run advertisements on behalf of Mr. McCain. The committee bought time for advertisements this weekend in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, said Democrats who monitor the purchases.
Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s senior advisers and an ally of Mr. Davis, described the changes as a retooling before the general election. Mr. Black said that Mr. Schmidt would be the chief operating officer of the campaign, serving under Mr. Davis, in charge mostly of helping Mr. McCain settle on a message and get it out with speeches, advertisements and surrogate events.
“He is going to be the chief choreographer,” Mr. Black said of Mr. Schmidt.
Yet by every appearance — including the broad portfolio Mr. McCain has handed Mr. Schmidt — it is clear that he is running the operation, Republicans involved in the campaign said.
Mr. Schmidt, 37, is one of the most intense, hard-driving figures in his party today: when he worked for Mr. Bush, his nickname in the campaign was “The Bullet,” a reference to the shape of his shaved head.
He has been at the center of some of the most politically significant Republican operations of the last 10 years. In working with Mr. Rove and Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mr. Schmidt has become immersed in the use of data-driven methods to find and turn out Republican voters.
He also ran the Bush campaign’s war room, which was responsible for capitalizing on mistakes of opponents. Mr. McCain’s advisers said that one sign of Mr. Schmidt’s increasing influence in the campaign’s rapid response operation was the quickness with which it seized on a remark by Gen. Wesley K. Clark questioning whether Mr. McCain’s experience as a naval aviator shot down over Vietnam had qualified him to be president.
Mr. Schmidt ran the successful re-election campaign of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Republican who won in a Democratic state by embracing moderate positions on issues like the environment and gay rights.
Mr. Schmidt also served as communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, a job that presumably offered him the kind of district-by-district political education that could prove helpful in making decisions about where to send Mr. McCain and what he should talk about.
The shift comes after what even Mr. McCain’s aides acknowledged has been a squandered period of time since he claimed the nomination in February. Mr. McCain spent Wednesday in Colombia, his second overseas trip in a week, and one that he took despite the urging of Republicans who said he needed to convey his concerns about domestic problems to voters at home.
“Somebody asked, ‘What’s the strategy behind this?’ ” Mr. Black said of the foreign travel. “It’s simple. McCain says he wants to go to these places, and we say, of course.”
But, Mr. Black added, the trip should help to underline “one of the big contrasts in this race: Obama wants to become the first protectionist president in our history since Herbert Hoover.”
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[QUOTE=nuu faaola;2612933]The most interesting, and telling, line in the article is this:
The conventional wisdom was that the long, protracted Democratic primary would be a huge advantage for McCain. Now that ship has officially sailed.
Not that I mind, of course.[/QUOTE]
and even with McCain's mediocre campaign and the continued fawning over BO by the media and the "tingly" feeling running down everyone's leg what does hussien have to show for this?? a five-to-six point margin...:shakehead
imagine what's gonna happen if McCain gets his sh!t together...