McCain Shakes Up Campaign Staff Again

John McCain has gotten rid of his top campaign staff in a dispute over the way they were handling his dwindling finances, Dan Balz reports.

Campaign manager Terry Nelson and chief strategist John Weaver issued terse statements announcing their departures from the McCain camp, which reportedly came after the candidate erupted after concluding that his top-level advisers had mismanaged the operation.

An angry McCain reportedly confronted Weaver and Nelson about the campaign’s operations, particularly the amount of money that was being spent even when it was clear funds were tight. The final confrontation, coming after McCain returned from a visit to Iraq over the weekend, ultimately led to their departures, according to sources.

Also leaving are McCain political director Rob Jesmer and deputy campaign manager Reed Galen, officials said.


Sources said Rick Davis, the campaign’s chief executive officer, would take over day-to-day management of the campaign as McCain attempts to revive his candidacy against enormous odds. Nelson and Weaver had battled with Davis over campaign operations and fundraising goals for months.

Weaver’s resignation was the most surprising. He has been McCain’s chief strategist and confidant for many years, playing a role as central to the Arizonan’s political operations as White House senior adviser Karl Rove has played in President Bush’s.

Further signs that the wheels are coming off, I’m afraid. Balz notes the parallels with John Kerry, who seemed doomed, shook up his staff, and ran away with the nomination in 2004. The difference, though, is that McCain doesn’t have a wife who inherited a ketchup fortune.

My colleague, Alex Knapp, continues to hold out hope that McCain will hang on and wind up emerging as the nominee by default after Rudy Giuliani’s inevitable implosion. While there’s something to be said for that, as well as the GOP’s tendency to nominate the guy whose “turn” it is, this has to be humiliating for McCain. And it will likely further hinder his already struggling fundraising efforts.

UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini –who is, I should note, a Giuliani guy — has some interesting analysis.

Ultimately, I don’t see how things would have turned out differently had Nelson and Weaver not been at the helm these last six months. The premise of McCain as frontrunner was always seriously flawed, and to the extent Weaver architected that strategy in 2005-06, he bears some of the blame. But ultimately, that is an expectations problem. If everyone believes you’re the frontrunner, then you had better darned well perform like the frontrunner. With the base’s deep-seated animosity towards McCain (something that only emerged in 2000) and his lackluster track record in fundraising (people forget this is guy who never raised a dime out of cycle), the McCain frontrunner meme was always bound to take a fall. I may be surprised by how fast it’s happened, but I’m not surprised at the outcome.

McCain Google Ad on Ruffini slam post Ironically, the post also accidentally points to another of McCain’s problems: It is bordered by a paid-for-by-McCain Google ad. While I applaud McCain’s honest efforts to reach out to the blogosphere and the New Media generally, I’ve never been sure that his profligate use of Google Adsense placements was the best use of his money. Indeed, totally unrelated to politics posts at Gone Hollywood were frequent beneficiaries of his largess. While I’m happy to have the money, I’m not sure how it’s helping change the minds of likely Republican primary voters.

Ed Morrissey, ever the optimist, sees the silver lining.

Some people may see this as the wheels coming off the campaign, but that has already arguably happened. This looks more like trying to put new wheels in place of the old while the vehicle is in motion. Both men have worked for McCain for years — Weaver was a key man in McCain’s failed 2000 primary bid — and McCain would not have parted with them if he intends to quit. This signals that McCain wants to rethink his campaign strategy to such an extent that new management will be needed.

Certainly, the status quo wasn’t working. Still, I’m not sure what changing the staff is going to do. Ultimately, McCain is a known quantity. It’s quite likely not a function of bad marketing that people aren’t buying the product but rather at the public not being interested in what’s being offered.

Michelle Malkin passes on a US News whisper that McCain might quit the Senate to focus on the run. While Malkin has “no objections,” Morrissey correctly notes that Arizona has a Democratic governor who would appoint his replacement. Not only would that make things even harder for the GOP but it wouldn’t exactly endear McCain to the nominating electorate, either.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    Why doesn’t Bush just pull a Musharaf and extend his term indefinitely? We are doomed with candidates like McCain.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    “My colleague, Alex Knapp, continues to hold out hope that McCain will hang on and wind up emerging as the nominee by default.”

    I’m not sure how much I hope that McCain wins the nomination. Mostly it’s just that I really, really, really hope for a Giuliani implosion (which should happen if the media does its job), and I think that a McCain nomination is the most likely result from that.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Fair enough!

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    On McCain resigning to pursue the nomination, I sure hope this isn’t the case. I think this would create even more problems for the GOP in the senate. Imagine a cloture vote or the like on a key issue that passes by just enough votes given his replacement.

  5. Bithead says:


    I’ve never been sure that his profligate use of Google Adsense placements was the best use of his money.

    Neither am I, but then again, on the other hand, I’m not quite sure it would make a great deal of difference where he spent that money, given what he’s been offering the voter.


    I must say that while I am no Giuliani supporter (given another choice, which at the moment is Fred Thompson) I find myself intrigued at your reaction. Mind expanding a bit on why you would wish for the Giuliani implosion?

  6. Regarding McCain and his Google ads, they perform extremely well for him. As reported by the Wall Street Journal he brings in $4 in contributions for every $1 spent. So it is a good use of money.