- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2008

Republican presidential candidate John McCain” href=”/themes/?Theme=John+McCain” >John McCain tweaked his campaign Wednesday by elevating aide Steve Schmidt” href=”/themes/?Theme=Steve+Schmidt” >Steve Schmidt to oversee day-to-day operations, in a move to give his presidential bid the stability and direction that many in his party feared were lacking.

It was the second overhaul Mr. McCain has made in less than a year, and was announced as he was traveling in Colombia and Mexico.

Veteran Republican campaign operatives said the move gives the senator from Arizona a strong central presence in his Arlington headquarters that was missing under the campaign’s unorthodox regional structure.

Steve clearly has proven through his involvement at the NRCC, for Bush at the White House, for Schwarzenegger, that he can craft a message and get a campaign to stick to it, but is also a great manager,” said one Republican strategist who asked for anonymity to be able to speak freely about a colleague. “The criticism you’ve seen of McCain’s campaign so far, he can help solve some of those problems.”

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis relayed the news to staffers Wednesday.

Charlie Black, a top campaign adviser, said Mr. Schmidt will function “basically as the chief operating officer under Rick and will do more day-to-day management.” Mr. Davis will focus on long-term planning.

“There is no shake-up when you take a key member of the campaign and give him more responsibility,” Mr. Black said.

“That’s what Steve Schmidt has been - a senior member of the team - and it was Rick’s idea for him to take on more responsibility,” he said.

Although more second-tier staff will be hired, Mr. Black said, “no one at the senior level would be coming into or leaving the McCain campaign.”

Some pundits in the press speculated that Mr. Schmidt’s elevation would open the door for Mike Murphy, a media consultant who served in the 2000 McCain presidential campaign, and Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 White House bid.

Mr. Schmidt, who has worked for Bush” >President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, declined to comment.

Democrats said that tapping a Bush aide underscores Mr. McCain’s ties to the unpopular president.

“It’s no surprise that John McCain would put a Bush-Cheney veteran in charge of his campaign since he’s been promising a third Bush term and relying on money raised by President Bush and his friends,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera. “No matter who’s steering the ship, it’s going to be rough sailing as long as John McCain keeps promising four more years of President Bush’s failed policies.”

Mr. Schmidt advised the campaign throughout the primaries. Mr. Davis has taken a higher profile as a surrogate for Mr. McCain on television, and will continue to focus on long-term planning.

Mr. McCain has hired other veterans of the Bush campaign and White House, such as Nicolle Wallace, who was communications director for both the 2004 campaign and the White House.

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