Who’s left on Team McCain?
My understanding after talking to people familiar with the situation is similar to Rich’s, that there had been reports of disagreements between Rick Davis and the now-departing Terry Nelson and John Weaver. It’s worth remembering that McCain has been out of the country for the better part of a week, visiting Iraq; whatever calming or pacifying influence he may have had on the factions was missing in past days.
According to the Hotline article from a while back, Rick Davis was the one assembling McCain’s online communications team, including the infamous discussions with former Dean web staffer Nicco Mele.
One more complication for team McCain: today the Senator was expected to speak in the Senate about his most recent trip to Iraq. Whether his message was, “the surge is working, and in a year Iraq will look completely different” or “I’ve got grave concerns about the capabilities of the Iraqi government,” McCain was certain to get a lot of attention. Now, the story of the day is the departing staffers; the timing could not be worse.
UPDATE: I can’t be certain, but does anybody else think maybe this May U.S. News and World Report story foreshadowed the divide and the departures?
The questions surrounding Davis concern his part ownership of a company, 3eDC, and its ties to the McCain campaign. Like Weaver and Nelson, Davis, the campaign CEO, is paid $20,000 a month. Additionally, however, Davis’s 3eDC has a lucrative contract with the campaign. U.S. News could find no public record showing Davis’s ownership interest in 3eDC, but in an interview he acknowledged that he was one of its two owners. McCain’s spokesman, Brian Jones, confirmed that Davis “did not disclose his interest in 3eDC to Senator McCain.”
3eDC helped build the campaign’s website and maintains its infrastructure. Davis declined to disclose the company’s contractual arrangement with McCain’s operation, but campaign records filed recently show that the company is owed $175,000 for just three months’ work. Davis identified the other 3eDCowner as Paul Manafort, his partner in a lobbying firm, Davis Manafort. Manafort is a controversial figure in Washington. He has represented notorious dictators and once described himself as an “influence peddler” in testimony before a House committee examining how he and other Republican operatives profited from a housing program for the poor…
For now, Weaver seems to have won out over Davis in the battle for McCain’s ear. Although McCain’s aides deny any problems, a well-connected political consultant says: “There is a conflict between John Weaver and Rick Davis. McCain threw Terry Nelson in as a figurehead.” Another insider says: “Weaver is totally in charge and has neutralized Davis.”
Well, it’s Davis’ campaign now.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Longtime McCain co-author and chief of staff Mark Salter’s gone too, and Marc Ambinder has the first word of really deep trouble: “The sources said that the three did not split from McCain amicably.”
The departures are bad, but if any of the three start talking about “a campaign in tatters,” it will exacerbate the situation greatly…
Happier days were descibed by John Broder in the New York Times, a little less than a year ago:
At this early stage, there is no sign of any battle for influence over policy or political strategy among Mr. McCain’s supporters. The real power continues to reside in his longtime inner circle — Mr. Weaver; Mr. Davis; and his Senate chief of staff, Mark Salter. They talk daily, even hourly, as they try to lock up talent, and they and a handful of close political advisers convene weekly conference calls with activists and fund-raisers.
As of today, the entire “inner circle” is gone except Davis…
UPDATE: Ouch. A tough parody:
WASHINGTON (AP) – John McCain’s campaign today announced that Senator McCain has been let go from his role in the campaign. A senior McCain official stated that the Senator’s parting was “amicable” but “we needed to tighten our belts, and we were spending a lot of money on his travel and support staff and didn’t feel we were getting the best value for our dollar having him on the campaign.” A high-level strategy meeting was being held to determine next steps, but the official insisted that the campaign was “still optimistic that we can be as competitive, if not moreso, without Senator McCain.”
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: With the departure of the entire old “inner circle,” some people wonder if there’s more departures to come. If I were Davis, I would try to keep additional turnover to a minimum; who would want to sign on with what appears to be a sinking ship?
I wonder how many remaining McCain staffers are thinking right now, “Hm. I wonder if Thompson is hiring…”
Rich has more from “a close and sympathetic observer of John McCain.”
YES, YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Politico reports Reed Galen, who had been serving as McCain’s deputy campaign manager, and Rob Jesmer, the campaign’s political director, have tendered their resignations. That brings today’s departures to five high-level staffers. Wow.