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McCain Puts New Strategist Atop Campaign
The changes are an acknowledgment that the structure created in the weeks after McCain wrapped up the nomination has not served him well. One element that will undergo major changes is the layer of regional campaign managers, who were given significant autonomy over campaign activities in their assigned geographic areas.
Campaign officials have since concluded that the move was a mistake, and Schmidt is now searching for a national political director to oversee and coordinate the political operation.
Other personnel changes are in store. Nicolle Wallace, the former White House communications director who has already been involved with the campaign, will play a larger role and is likely to spend time traveling with McCain. The campaign has recruited Greg Jenkins, who oversaw advance work for the Bush White House, to take charge of the staging of McCain's events, which have been a sore point among some.
Several prominent Republicans expressed relief yesterday that McCain had moved to reshape his campaign. "McCain's inability to establish a pecking order among his brain trust is now history," one said. "Steve Schmidt makes decisions. He focuses. Buy this stock now. It is going up."
But skeptics remain, questioning whether the shift is sufficient to put the candidate on a winning path. One strategist wondered whether McCain was continuing to vest authority in multiple leaders, a recipe for continued frustration. Even after the move, he remains surrounded by the same small clutch of political advisers: Davis, Schmidt, former lobbyist Charles R. Black Jr. and longtime chief of staff Mark Salter.
Remaining on the outside are Weaver and Mike Murphy, a GOP consultant and McCain confidant whose advice the candidate still seeks out. Murphy praised yesterday's reorganization but said he has no plans to join the campaign. "The campaign is recognizing that while they did a fantastic job in the primary, there's always room to improve it," Murphy said.
Campaign officials see next week as a crucial test. McCain is planning to devote several days to his economic message, keyed to battleground states and supplemented by surrogates and efforts to get more media coverage in key markets.
Washingtonpost.com staff writer Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.