John McCain's Inner Circle
Most politicians who have spent a long period of time on the national stage have a core group of advisers who have been with them through it all.
Over the last few months, we've detailed the Inner Circles of a handful of 2008 presidential candidates including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, (R) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.).
In that time, no candidate's Inner Circle has gone through as much transition as that of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Following a lackluster first fundraising quarter, McCain parted ways with finance director Carla Eudy and has also watched as former Straight Talk America executive director Craig Goldman and presidential political director Mike Dennehy have also left the campaign.
Others who were close to McCain in 2000 -- like media consultants Mike Murphy and Greg Stevens -- are not this time around. Murphy has purposely stayed out of the presidential race because McCain and Romney were both past clients; Stevens passed away last month after a battle with cancer.
Those departures mean that McCain's 2008 team looks quite a bit different than the group surrounding his upstart bid in 2000. Here's a look at who McCain' Inner Circle:
* Terry Nelson: The hiring of Nelson as campaign manager was perhaps the most obvious signal that McCain would model his organization after the President's 2004 campaign. Nelson, a native Iowan, was political director for Bush in 2004. Prior to that he served as deputy chief of staff at the Republican National Committee in 2002 and as political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2000.
* John Weaver: Weaver is to McCain as Karl Rove is to George W. Bush. A longtime political hand from Texas, Weaver took McCain's defeat in 2000 hard -- leaving the Republican party to do work as a Democratic strategist for a brief time in the 2002 election (Weaver ceased all political activity for the better part of three years as he battled leukemia.) Weaver has since made peace with Rove and was integral in the recruitment of former members of Bush world during the early days of McCain's presidential bid.
* Mark Salter: No one knows John McCain the man better than Salter. Salter is more than McCain's longtime chief of staff -- he is also co-author of several of McCain's best known books including "Faith of Our Fathers" and "Character is Destiny" and is widely regarded as McCain's alter-ego.
* Brian Jones: Jones' rapid-rise through Republican politics has culminated with his role as communications director for McCain's presidential bid. Like Nelson, Jones has experience in the upper echelons of the Bush 2004 campaign as a senior communications adviser and served as communications director for the Republican National Committee in the 2006 cycle.
* Tom Loeffler: Loeffler, a Texan, and McCain served together in Congress during the 1980s and have remained close. In the recent shakeup following McCain's lackluster first fundraising quarter, Loeffler's role in the campaign has been elevated as he now oversees all of the cash-collecting operation. McCain needs a big second quarter and is relying on Loeffler to deliver it.
* Russ Schriefer: Schriefer is the lead media consultant for McCain 2008 -- overseeing a group of image makers in the same way that Mark McKinnon did for the Bush re-election. Schriefer, along with his business partner Stuart Stevens, were responsible for some of the most memorable ads of the 2004 presidential race including one that showed Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) windsurfing and another that featured Kerry insisting that he had actually voted for an $87 billion appropriation for the war in Iraq before he voted against it.
* Bill McInturff: McInturff is one of the holdovers from McCain's 2000 campaign. As he did in that race, McIntruff will serve as the lead pollster for McCain in 2008. McInturff is a founding partner of Public Opinion Strategies, one of the most highly regarded survey research firms on the Republican side.
* Steve Schmidt: Schmidt has had quite a run over the past few years. In 2004 he was a member of the innermost circle of advisers on the Bush re-election campaign. He went on to oversee strategy for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito. In 2006 Schmidt managed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R-Calif.) re-election race -- taking the Governator from what looked like sure defeat to a relatively easy victory. Schmidt is still in California but has taken on a larger advisory role of late in the McCain camp.
* Mark McKinnon: McKinnon became a well-known political figure during the 2000 campaign when he oversaw the vast media campaign for Bush. In a previous life McKinnon had worked for a number of Democrats including Ann Richards (Texas) and Michael Dukakis (Mass.). McKinnon also served a stint as a songwriter with Kris Kristofferson (his official bio says he was "wildly unsuccessful" at it).
* Phil Gramm: Another Texan, Gramm served in the Senate from 1984 to 2002 and even made a presidential run of his own in 1996. Gramm is intimately involved in the day to day operations of the campaign and has the ear of McCain. He is also being relied on as a key member of McCain's policy team with a particular emphasis on the economy.
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