Sen. John McCain's top three press aides resigned this morning, Republicans close to the campaign said and one of those aides confirmed.
The campaign's research director and two other press staffers also stepped down.
The departure of Brian Jones, the communications director, Danny Diaz, his deputy, and Matt David, another deputy, had been widely anticipated since last week's resignation of campaign manager Terry Nelson. All three were Nelson's proteges and worked closely with departed strategist John Weaver.
But all three showed up in New Hampshire last Friday to staff McCain's two-day trip through the state. Jones carefully attended to McCain at a press conference and Diaz staffed him on a blogger conference call. The Wall Street Journal reported that day that the three would resign Saturday. They did not. They did, in fact, share a farewell drink with the Senator.
"This is not an acrimonious departure. We're doing everything we can to keep the transition smooth," Jones said. He said he and the others informed campaign manager Rick Davis before a senior staff meeting this morning.
Last Tuesday, as word of the Nelson and Weaver resignations was sent out to the press, Jones essentially ordered his staff to stay put. "No one is leaving this week," Jones said. And no one did. The goal was to get through the week and through McCain's trip to New Hampshire.
Jill Hazelbaker, currently McCain's New Hampshire communications director, is likely to take over as national communications director, a Republican briefed on the changes said. She's worked closely with McCain's new team, worked well with his old team, and has no dog in the fight but McCain.
"If he's going to turn this campaign around, it's probably going to have to start in New Hampshire," the Republican said.
Davis said in an interview that he expects a downsized press operation: with spokespeople in the early states included, before today's resignations, there were 12 McCain staffers dedicated to media and research.
"Frankly, the priority was to try and sustain as much as we could in communications but they were one of the best shops that we had," Davis said.
Jones was the RNC's communications director during the 2006 cycle, and was a senior adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004. Diaz was Jones's RNC deputy and supervised regional communications. And David worked with Steve Schmidt, another former McCain adviser, on the 2006 Schwarzenneger re-election campaign.
McCain staffers Amanda Hennenberg and Adam Temple also resigned, sources said, as did the campaign's research director, Brian Rogers.
Davis said that Susan Nelson, a principle at a firm owned by Tom Loeffler, another McCain adviser, will serve as finance director. Davis said that a new Iowa state director would be appointed soon and that more staff would be added to the pared down campaign operations in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
"The states are going to be the beneficiary of the budget crisis," Davis said.