In a new campaign staffing shake-up, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain promoted top adviser Steve Schmidt to head the campaign’s staff.
Schmidt will take over the day-to-day campaign management. The New Jersey native also ran California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign and advised President Bush in his re-election run, according to Politico.
“Schmidt will shape the campaign’s message, run its political operation and oversee most every facet of this organization, including the candidate’s schedule, policy statements, deployments of surrogates and coalitions,” Politico reported, adding McCain adviser Charlie Black’s comment that “he’ll be the maestro who conducts the symphony.”
Current campaign manager Rick Davis will maintain his title but shift his focus to longer-term goals such as the Republican National Convention in early September, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins said the shift was the result of frustration over a lack of focus among the campaign team.
“They’ve sort of been watching the other side and not doing a whole lot,” Rollins said. “There’s a lot of disaffection among Republicans across the country.”
McCain team members hope that Schmidt’s heavy disciplinary manner and thorough follow-through will help energize the campaign and increase their candidate’s popularity.
“The one thing that Steve prides himself on is very good execution,” Terry Nelson, a former McCain campaign manager and long-time Schmidt colleague, told Politico. “He has a sense of how to hold people accountable so they’ll perform for him.”
News of the shift came Wednesday morning while McCain, on a trip to Colombia, met with Colombian officials to discuss the future of U.S.-Latin American trade. The Arizona senator met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Wednesday and praised the president for his work on reigning in the country’s infamous drug trade.
“The progress that I’ve seen since previous visits here has been substantial and positive,” McCain said in a press conference Thursday in Cartagena, according to the Los Angeles Times.
McCain also praised the Colombian leader for the success the army had against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in arranging the rescue of hostages — including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three American military contractors — held by rebels for the past five years.
“I’m pleased with the success of this very high-risk operation,” he said in a statement.
McCain heads to Mexico Thursday to meet with President Felipe Calderon to continue his tour focusing on continuing free-trade agreements among the Latin American countries.