Back to politics (All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy) -- Worries in G.O.P. About McCain Camp Disarray
Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign is in a troubled stretch, hindered by resignations of staff members, a lagging effort to build a national campaign organization and questions over whether he has taken full advantage of Democratic turmoil to present a case for his candidacy, Republicans say.
In interviews, some party leaders said they were worried about signs of disorder in his campaign, and if the focus in the last several weeks on the prominent role of lobbyists in Mr. McCain’s inner circle might undercut the heart of his general election message: that he is a reformer taking on special interests in Washington.
“The core image of John McCain is as a reformer in Washington — and the more dominant the story is about the lobbying teams around him, the more you put that into question,” said Terry Nelson, who was Mr. McCain’s campaign manager until he left in a shake-up last fall. “If the Obama campaign can truly change him from being seen as a reformer to just being another Washington politician, it could be very damaging over the course of the campaign.”
The ousters of some of the staff members came after Mr. McCain imposed a new policy that active lobbyists would not be allowed to hold paying jobs in the campaign.
Although Mr. Obama has continued to raise far more money than Mr. McCain, Mr. Bush’s fund-raising machinery has helped keep the Republican Party competitive. The McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee, between them, have $11 million more on hand — about $62 million — than the combined cash-on-hand of Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee.
Last Sunday, he invited Mike Murphy, his longtime friend and political adviser, who is not involved in this campaign, to his home in Virginia. There, Mr. Murphy reportedly gave him a detailed and at times tough assessment of what Mr. McCain had done wrong.
Mr. Murphy urged him to tone down his attacks on Mr. Obama and stop coming across as so angry. He recommended that Mr. McCain concentrate on running as a reform candidate to strip that issue from Mr. Obama, and to make greater efforts to distance himself from Mr. Bush, Republicans familiar with the conversation said.
Some of Mr. McCain’s associates said that Mr. McCain might be interested in bringing Mr. Murphy back on board, but that his current circle of advisers was resisting that.
Some Republicans said they were concerned that the Democrats would soon unify around Mr. Obama, and that it was only a matter of weeks before Mr. Obama began unloading a huge round of advertising intended to define Mr. McCain. If that happens, they said, Mr. McCain may look back at this period as a time of missed opportunity.
Mr. McCain has made some gains in reassuring conservatives nervous about his views on issues like immigration, polls suggest. But if he is going to rely on turnout in the Republican base more than on winning over independents and disaffected Democrats, there is evidence that he has not gone as far as he needs to — particularly given how energized Democrats appear to be.