Yesterday Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign office confirmed that his campaign manager and head strategist have both resigned from the campaign.
Campaign manager Terry Nelson and chief strategist John Weaver both had very positive comments about McCain in their resignation announcements. Weaver expressed their enthusiastic support when he wrote: “I believe that most Americans will come to the conclusion that I have long known there is only one person equipped to serve as our nation’s chief executive and deal with the challenges we face, and that person is John McCain.” Weaver had been with McCain since his campaign in 2000 and was very close to the Senator.
McCain had nice things to say about the former staffers as well, stressing that they had not been fired and praising their “dedication, hard work and friendship.” What went unsaid by all parties is that McCain’s rankings in the polls have gone down almost 50% since he announced his candidacy and he has dropped to third place in national polls including likely entrant Fred Thompson, trailing front runner Rudy Giuliani by 14 points. Results of polls in Iowa are particularly troubling, with McCain in 5th place with 6% of the vote. Also not discussed were McCain’s dismal fundraising figures. With official reports for the second quarter due at the end of this week, initial reports place McCain’s donations at under $2 million, behind even fringe candidate Ron Paul who rumors suggest may have raised as much as $5 million this quarter.
The amicable character of the departure of these two top campaign advisers suggests that McCain is making a final effort to change the downward direction of his campaign to avoid having to confront the reality of an early withdrawal as some are speculating may be likely this fall. There has also been speculation Weaver and Nelson might join the Thompson campaign.
McCain’s decline in popularity has been somewhat startling, from a position on the supposed inside track coming out of the 2000 election, to desperately trying to keep his campaign alive as the competition became more serious. His inability to effectively challenge Rudy Giuliani and constant polls showing him less likely to beat major Democrat contenders than Giuliani or Thompson put him in a very difficult situation from which to rally his campaign.
In addition, his chimerical position on the Iraq War, opposing the Bush strategy but wholeheartedly supporting the war, has left a lot of potential moderate supporters puzzled, and his constant vacillation between extremely conservative and more moderate positions has confused many voters.
McCain reportedly plans to take more direct and personal control over the campaign so that he can get out his fiscally conservative, morally moderate, and anti-terror message more effectively. Whether or not it is already too late to change course and revitalize his campaign should become clear in the next couple of months.