Sen. John McCain‘s troubled presidential campaign organization is imploding in Michigan, senior Republicans in the state say.
Attorney General Mike Cox has told state party officials that he is resigning, possibly today, as Michigan chairman of McCain campaign, several top Michigan Republicans told The Washington Times.
Mr. Cox wanted to withdraw his support because of a “disagreement in the direction of the campaign,” a state Republican activist close to the campaign confided. “He has a call into him to personally talk to him, but I’m not sure if he has heard back or not.”
A meltdown in Michigan could presage the early demise of the McCain effort nationally because Michigan was the one big state that the Arizona senator won, with independents’ help, in his 2000 Republican nomination contest with George W. Bush. The McCain campaign is also struggling nationally, having overspent early and been forced to fire most of its staff.
“The organization is nonexistent — it’s not raising money,” Mr. Cox complained to a fellow Michigan Republican, who in turn spoke with The Times.
A McCain insider told The Times yesterday that the McCain campaign’s financial woes nationwide are so deep that “John isn’t going to make it without taking [federal] matching funds. He’s just not raising the money.”
Furthermore, a Michigan Republican activist told The Times, “The Michigan campaign has a confused and disorganized structure that doesn’t follow up and simply refuses to make phone calls.”
“We hear from them only when we needed to raise money,” the activist said.
Another Republican close to the McCain campaign said the senator and the attorney general agreed yesterday to meet on Mackinac Island over the weekend, but Mr. Cox told Mr. McCain that no matter how the weekend meeting went, he would not change his mind about leaving as state campaign chairman.
On Saturday, Mr. Cox had what was variously described as an “angry” discussion and a “pointed back-and-forth” exchange in person with Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s national campaign manager.
Other reasons for Mr. Cox’s “irrevocable” decision to quit as state chairman include his beliefs that those remaining on Mr. McCain’s paid Michigan staff are more concerned for themselves than the campaign and that the Michigan team’s resources are being wasted. The final straw for Mr. Cox was not hearing from Mr. McCain personally, as he had expected, until yesterday.
Mr. Cox is scheduled to introduce Mr. McCain at the concluding dinner on Saturday at the Mackinac Island Republican Leadership Conference dinner, billed as the “super bowl” of pre-election year politics in the state.
Also, there has been friction with Michigan Republican kingmaker, Chuck Yob, a long-serving member of the Republican National Committee and an early McCain backer. Mr. Yob’s son, John, works for the McCain campaign. A senior Republican official confided that Mr. Cox, said to have gubernatorial aspirations, backed Keith Butler, a popular conservative black minister, in his challenge to Mr. Yob for re-election to the RNC.
Mr. McCain is running third or fourth in national polls. The “first tier” of Republican contenders still contains former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Mr. McCain. In Iowa, however, Mr. McCain is running fifth, also behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.