Shake-up: McCain to "relaunch" campaign next week

That’s the Times’s description for what’s going on, not McCain’s, but read their brutal piece on Steve Schmidt being bumped up today to take over day-to-day operations of the campaign in tandem with this prescient Politico story from this morning, before the change was announced, about GOP strategists wringing their hands over the incompetence of Team Maverick thus far and you’ll see why a relaunch doesn’t sound like a bad idea. There are too many awful, ominous quotes from both stories to excerpt, so this one from the NYT will have to suffice:

The shift was approved by Mr. McCain after several aides, including Mr. Schmidt, warned him about 10 days ago that he was in danger of losing the presidential election unless he revamped his campaign operation, according to two officials close to the campaign.

Okay, one more, by way of explaining McCain’s bizarre trip to Colombia:

On Wednesday, Mr. McCain visited Colombia, his second overseas trip in a month, and one that he took despite the urging of Republicans who said he needed to convey to voters his concerns about domestic problems and the economy.

“Somebody asked, ‘what’s the strategy behind this?’ ” Mr. Black said of the foreign travel. “It’s simple. McCain says he wants to go to these places, and we say of course.”

Still not worried? Here’s former McCain aide John Weaver’s take via TNR: “They couldn’t continue to go on without a field organization and without the basic architecture of a traditional campaign… There’s a requirement for basic competence, and that’s what this change says.” In other words, you need an actual organization to win a presidential campaign. Evidently it took the McCain camp four months to figure that out, pissing away the huge lead time his early primary win gave him over Obama in the process.

As the Times piece makes clear and ABC reiterates, the idea behind Schmidt’s promotion is to start bringing in veterans of the Bush/Cheney machine to try to set things right; Schmidt managed their war room in 2004 and Greg Jenkins, who’s coming aboard to limit the number of embarrassing green-screen speeches in the future, did advance work for Bush at the White House. The big operational shift, evidently, will be abandoning a plan to decentralize management of the campaign by outsourcing it to 10 regional managers. Did something happen recently to clue them in to the fact that that would be inefficient and chaotic? Nope. Per this Politico piece from April, Republican strategists have been warning them about it for months:

First, says one prominent GOP strategist, [national campaign manager Rick] Davis won’t be able to directly oversee regional aides with all the other responsibilities that come with running a campaign. And further, says this source, delegating so much decision-making authority to different individuals will lead to mixed results. “There are some things campaigns are going to do everywhere because they work and are fundamental to the campaign,” says the strategist.

“In every campaign, some people perform up to expectations, and some people don’t,” Black said by way of tamping down such criticism. “If some [regional campaign managers] don’t perform well, of course they’ll get more supervision.”…

“The Mehlman campaign style of ’04 would never work for him, and the beginning of the campaign proved that,” noted another GOP operative with ties to Bushworld. “But I just don’t know if this is realistic — why experiment in such a large-scale way?”

We’d better hope that the Mehlman style will work because it sounds like that’s what they’re going back to now. Exit question one: We should have known there was trouble when he started putting out those weird ads, shouldn’t we? Exit question two, from this morning’s Politico article: “What’s the political strategy when you allow your opponent, who has just had a grueling four months, time to catch their breath, regroup, fundraise and start to define himself?”