Should McCain Fire His Campaign Team?

Longtime McCain supporter Bill Kristol argues in his NYT column that it’s time for the Republican nominee to fire his campaign staff and try something new.

His campaign is totally overmatched by Obama’s. The Obama team is well organized, flush with resources, and the candidate and the campaign are in sync. The McCain campaign, once merely problematic, is now close to being out-and-out dysfunctional. Its combination of strategic incoherence and operational incompetence has become toxic.

There’s one wee little problem with this: McCain’s running the team. The reason they’re constantly throwing Hail Mary’s and flitting from issue-to-issue and attack-to-attack is because McCain wants it that way. He’s not and never has been a disciplined campaigner; he’s a seat-of-the-pants maverick. That’s often worked for him in the past. It revived him after all seemed lost in the primaries. It — along with external circumstances — are hurting him now.

What McCain needs to do is junk the whole thing and start over. Shut down the rapid responses, end the frantic e-mails, bench the spinning surrogates, stop putting up new TV and Internet ads every minute. In fact, pull all the ads — they’re doing no good anyway. Use that money for televised town halls and half-hour addresses in prime time.

And let McCain go back to what he’s been good at in the past — running as a cheerful, open and accessible candidate. Palin should follow suit. The two of them are attractive and competent politicians. They’re happy warriors and good campaigners. Set them free.

Provide total media accessibility on their campaign planes and buses. Kick most of the aides off and send them out to swing states to work for the state coordinators on getting voters to the polls. Keep just a minimal staff to help organize the press conferences McCain and Palin should have at every stop and the TV interviews they should do at every location. Do town halls, do the Sunday TV shows, do talk radio — and invite Obama and Biden to join them in some of these venues, on the ground that more joint appearances might restore civility and substance to the contest.

Now, I like this idea. It’s definitely how I’d like to see campaigns run. But there’s a reason they’re not. Negativity works. Short sound bytes work. Aside from must-see events like the debates and convention speeches, most undecided voters simply don’t have the attention span to watch 30 minute forums.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Houston says:

    The Obama team is well organized, flush with resources, and the candidate and the campaign are in sync.

    That’s odd…didn’t we just hear last week about how disorganized the Obama campaign was? Their plane stinks, they can’t get the right and the left hands in sync, etc.

    I think these people just like to hear themselves speaking.

    Dean Reynolds of ABC: http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2008/10/07/politics/fromtheroad/entry4507703.shtml

  2. G.A.Phillips says:

    Whats the point in changing now. Algore has it locked up, oops I’m meant Kerry no wait I meant 0bamma……..

  3. legion says:

    Well, considering that it’s now roughly 3 weeks til the election, shouldn’t this question be rephrased as: “Should McCain just give up?” Because really – if Obama doesn’t have a stroke or something and just keeps doing what he’s been doing, is there really any tactic McCain could use that would overcome his current deficit?

  4. just me says:

    It is a bit late in the ballgame to change the whole team out. changint the team now would definitely be a concession for defeat.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Now the word is that after all of Palin’s chatter yesterday about a chicken-in-every-pot “John McCain Economic Recovery Plan”… there is no plan.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  6. John Cole says:

    I eagerly await Bithead’s explanation how this is a genius move.

  7. sam says:

    Keep just a minimal staff to help organize the press conferences McCain and Palin should have at every stop and the TV interviews they should do at every location.

    Good luck with that.

  8. sam says:

    That’s odd…didn’t we just hear last week about how disorganized the Obama campaign was?

    Jesus, how far ahead would he be if it was organized?

  9. Rick Almeida says:

    If you operated under the assumption that Bill Kristol is wrong and decided not to read him unless and until someone credible told you, “Bill Kristol has a really good piece on X,” you could really save yourself some time for more enjoyable things.

  10. muffler says:

    It’s a bit late to change the field and look stable. The mere fact that you are throwing in the hand for 5 new cards shows desperation. I guess McCain has final realized that he is in a poker came and not playing craps. Too late.

  11. Pug says:

    Whats the point in changing now. Algore has it locked up, oops I’m meant Kerry no wait I meant 0bamma……..

    I know some Republicans take comfort in the fact that John Kerry was ahead in the polls and that Al Gore was ahead in the polls. Unfortunately, it isn’t true. Bush led both Kerry and Gore in the polls just before the election. That Gore won the popular vote was a big surprise.

  12. Anderson says:

    I eagerly await Bithead’s explanation how this is a genius move.

    Bitsy is too busy composing his letter accepting the offer to become McCain’s new campaign boss.

  13. Barry says:

    Its the media. There is no way a man like Obama should be where he is. Not with all the baggage from his past. I could spend a whole hour just typing about Obama’s friends, campaign contributions, ACORN etc

    What amazes me is the MSM knows millions have internet access and can check out the facts on their own yet they keep going on with their half truths and lies right in our face.

    The media has seen with their own eyes examples of Obama trying to silence free speech. What do they think will happen if he gets into power?

    The story of Obama and Kenya alone would be enough all alone to do him in IF the MSM would do their job.

    You cant lay all the blame on McCain.

  14. sam says:

    The story of Obama and Kenya alone would be enough all alone to do him in IF the MSM would do their job.

    You cant lay all the blame on McCain.

    Gosh, why hasn’t Bill Kristol, one of the rightest guys in the USofA, written anything on this Obama-Kenya blockbuster? Maybe if he were to write something on it, and in the New York Times (!) at that, he wouldn’t be dumping on McCain’s campaign like he is. It’s enough to make you weep.

  15. anjin-san says:

    Gives us a great look into a possible McCain administration. Just imagine these uber-competent folks running he country!

    Fast forward a few years. Guess what guys, China owns our asses. Great job Brownie!

  16. Bithead says:

    I eagerly await Bithead’s explanation how this is a genius move.

    I was camping for a few days and out of pocket.
    Frankly, that’s not something you’re going to get from me. I’m a little annoyed, frankly, that it’s come to this, in much the same way I would be at one of my boys who after begging for weeks for a particular toy, spends more time under the Christmas tree, playing with the friggin’ box.

    Kristol is among those who told us that we as Republicans had to lean to the Center to win votes. In saying this, of course he ignored the lesson of Reagan who told the purvaors of such nonsense to get stuffed, in no uncertain terms, saynig to the American people “I”m conservative, take me or leave me”.

    Now that such as Kristol see what’s happened to the idea of left leaning Republicans being welcomed as heros by the Democrat rank and file, they’re crying that the issue isn’t the mealy-mounthed politics involved, but the campaign.

    Thing is, McCain is the embodiment of the politics Kristol wanted. The “We’re all americans’ I resepect Senator Obama” and so on… all of that crap that’s getting McCain booed by his own base… that’s what Kristol and his ilk have been clamboring for. Well, they got it. THeir laying the problem at the feet of the campaign and not the candidate, speaks volumes to me about how willing they are to label the problem as what it is.

    As I said at my own place… can we have actual conservatives, now?