McCain Plans Decentralized Campaign

Sen. John McCain’s election planners are preparing to unveil a radically decentralized campaign structure over the next few months.

Instead of funneling authority through a few central figures at campaign headquarters in Arlington, VA, plans call for it to be dispersed to up to ten “regional campaign managers” –spread at satellite campaign offices throughout the country, according to two Republicans briefed on the plans.

“We don't discuss campaign structure or strategy,” said Jill Hazelbaker, McCain’s communications director.

The 10 different campaign offices will run, in essence, 10 different campaigns, region-specific and constituent-specific, tailorable to fit around McCain’s unique coalition.

The campaign’s staff – less than 100 in total – gathered in Arlington this weekend and was briefed on the plan.

Campaign chief Rick Davis invited staff members to submit resumes and passed around an organization chart. There is no political director – normally, the senior staff member directly in charge of designing and implementing the campaign’s field program, according to someone who has seen the chart.

When he was the campaign’s CEO during McCain 1.0 – when John Weaver was chief strategist and Terry Nelson was manager, Davis signed leases for campaign offices in New York and Los Angeles, anticipating that early budget projections would allow for a version of a regional campaign.

The regional managers would have the authority to hire and fire, to adapt field programs to fit the needs of the states in their region. Unlike regional political directors, they would be part of the senior staff table at the campaign’s Arlington headquarters. Message and media, for the most part, would still be run through Arlington.

Since he wrapped up the nomination in mid-February, McCain’s campaign has received thousands of resumes from job-seeking Republicans. But campaign has kept a lid on the hiring process and has resisted calls from Republicans that they begin to hire more quickly. Quietly, Republican state parties have begun to hire aides to staff their general election “Victory committees” – more of than not, they have pedigrees from the Mitt Romney operation.

Eventually, the regional campaign managers will oversee campaign-chosen state directors and the Republican National Committee’s regional political directors, slowing assuming the more traditional structure associated with general election campaigns.