McCain’s New Team Is Familiar

Posted July 24, 2007 at 6:17pm

The game of musical chairs in Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) struggling presidential campaign continues to shake out as a handful of former senior advisers are coming back into the fold while others are moving on to private consulting gigs.

Although the campaign announced a new direction just two weeks ago as campaign manager Terry Nelson and longtime McCain strategist John Weaver headed for the door following a dismal second-quarter fundraising effort, a number of the then-departing staffers have returned to fill similar roles within the campaign under its new head, Rick Davis.

“As a general matter the staffers is greatly reduced a little bit in the primary states and a lot in the headquarters,” said Charlie Black, head of BKSH & Associates and a member of McCain’s national finance team. “It’s just going to be a lean, mean operation focused on the three earliest states. When we add people further it will be in those states.”

The biggest slash in McCain’s Washington operation came in its press office.

“We had a truly world-class, full-service communications shop,” Black said. “We’ve scaled it back to a handful of really good people. It’s not nearly what it was.”

Most of those cuts came with the exits of Nelson loyalists such as Communications Director Brian Jones, Deputy Communications Director Danny Diaz and McCain’s rapid response spokesman, Matt David, all of whom had stayed on in the transition period. Jill Hazelbaker, who had been heading up McCain’s New Hampshire communications, is taking over as director.

So far, Davis has lured back former eCampaign Director Christian Ferry as deputy campaign manager. Brian Rogers, who was rumored to have left the campaign, remains as director of research.

McCain’s revamped in-house fundraising team also includes familiar faces such as his longtime fundraiser Carla Eudy, who is now mainly focusing on scheduling and McCain’s advance team operation. Fundraiser Mary Kate Johnson — who replaced Eudy in April after the first-quarter presidential fundraising numbers came out and later resigned — also has returned to the campaign as a fundraising consultant.

Still, other former staffers are severing ties with the campaign completely. Nelson, who left earlier this month, has returned as a consultant to Mercury Public Affairs. And Michael Dennehy, who was the campaign’s political director until early May, has rejoined his consulting firm, Dennehy Bouley, in New Hampshire.

Jay Zeidman, who joined the campaign in January as part of McCain’s fundraising arm and to help with the campaign’s Jewish outreach, is now working with GOP lawyer Bradley Blakeman. Blakeman, who has been working to set up a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) operation to rival the left’s MoveOn.org, said Zeidman will help get the as-yet-unnamed group off the ground. Blakeman has been working to raise millions of dollars from conservatives for the group, which is in the process of filing its official paperwork.

Jim McCray, who had been deputy finance director, is still considering his options while he helps with the campaign in its transition period.

All the upheaval has not led McCain’s K Street allies to make a break for it. While many lobbyists say they have been contacted by other Republican campaigns about fundraising opportunities, they also say they aren’t heading for the doors unless McCain makes an official withdrawal announcement. And those committed to McCain such as Kirk Blalock of Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock continue to push ahead. Blalock, who heads up McCain’s young professionals group, is planning a $100-per-person event next week targeting the chiefs of staff of Members who have endorsed McCain.