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McCain Campaign Flailing: in Disarray

TIME's Michael Scherer breaks the bad news to the bad news bears... John McCain is failing, miserably:

John McCain knows how to win small. No other candidate in memory has done it better. Give him a microphone, a chartered bus and some Purell, and he can take down a state with raw hustle and personality -- a few corny jokes, some "straight talk" and his own heroic tale. When he wrapped up the GOP nomination in March, his campaign employed just 90 people. It was a bit like the Bad News Bears winning the National League pennant.

That was back when he was running against a pack of incompetent Republicans. Now that McCain is out in the big leagues, his bush league strategies are failing.

But grit and luck get you only so far. Fall campaigns for President require massive organizations. What's more, McCain is likely to face the biggest, baddest team on the block. Barack Obama has been running the equivalent of a national campaign for almost six months now. He spends more than twice as much every 30 days as McCain has been able to raise in the same period. Obama has a campaign staff that numbers about 700 and already blankets most of the swing states. His organization ticks like a clock, has had an unwavering message and has kept a firmly fixed inner circle.

McCain, meanwhile, is still formulating his general-election pitch and struggling to build his core team. He is also trying, for the second time in as many years, to create a campaign that can win on a big scale. His previous attempt to run as the institutional candidate, with a projected nine-figure budget, failed spectacularly last July and nearly forced him out of the GOP race. Though his campaign is leaner than his rival's, McCain says he is happy with the progress. "I am pleased with the way the campaign is going," he said just before Memorial Day weekend in an airplane hangar in California's Central Valley. "I think we are going pretty well." But even as he spoke, problems were sprouting all around him.

That afternoon, McCain was forced to announce he would "reject" the endorsements of two controversial Evangelical pastors, John Hagee of Texas and Rod Parsley of Ohio, whose support he had previously courted, defended and celebrated as keystones of his effort to woo his party's Christian-conservative base. The next day, his wife Cindy reversed a long-held pledge of her own and released the initial pages of her 2006 tax return to the public. A self-imposed ban on lobbyists has forced the departure of five of McCain's advisers, including former Representative Tom Loeffler, the campaign's national finance co-chairman, and holds the prospect that others will follow them out the door. Behind the scenes, the campaign seems to be searching for stability. In mid-May, McCain sought the counsel of former adviser Mike Murphy, who suggested, among other things, that McCain and his surrogates soften the tone of their attacks on Obama. To reassure fund raisers, the campaign also held a conference call making clear that everything was under control, despite Loeffler's departure.

McCain's feeble attempts to hug the Bush base (who are largely still loyal to Bush) while at the same time distancing himself from Bush's failures, has been one of the more comical aspects of the presidential race. It was announced yesterday that Bush would hit the campaign and fundraising trail for McCain... but don't expect to see McCain up on stage with Bush.

Bush is akin to a pastor Hagee or Parsley at this point - a seemingly 'positive' that is grossly negative in the eyes of decent Americans.


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Comments (2)

Michael:

Only you Lee would believe anything the Democrat mouthpiece TIME would say.

Lee Ward[TypeKey Profile Page]:

John McCain won't even stand on the same stage as George W. Bush. He won't even be seen with the guy.

McCain's fundraising levels are way behind Obama.

McCain first embraced, and then had to reject, both Pastor Hagee and Pastor Parsley.

Cindy McCain flip-flopped, and after saying adamantly that she would not release her tax returns, she released the two top pages of her 2006 return.

McCain had to let Loeffler go.

There are all facts, no matter who's reporting them.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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