ABC News’ Rick Klein and Teddy Davis Report: Veteran Republican operative Steve Schmidt has been put in charge of day-today operations of Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, with campaign manager Rick Davis keeping his title but focusing more on general strategy and long-term strategic planning, according to campaign officials and other Republicans familiar with the move.
Schmidt, a veteran of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, R-Calif., 2006 reelection effort, is expected to bring a harder edge to a McCain operation that been criticized by Republicans and Democrats for muddled messaging and an overall lack of focus.
Though Schmidt has had a major role with the McCain campaign since December, the shake-up will leave an experienced and respected operative with a wider swath of responsibility over scheduling, agenda-setting, and efforts to define both McCain and his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.
“Organized, focused, and strategic — what’s not to love?” one Republican with close ties to the McCain campaign told ABC News. “I think it will help.”
Davis, who will still be above Schmidt in the campaign hierarchy, will focus on general strategy, convention planning, managing relationships with major donors, and the search for a running mate, a McCain campaign official told ABC.
The new role for Schmidt was announced at McCain campaign headquarters Wednesday in Arlington, Va.
One McCain insider said the move is designed in part to provide a psychological lift to McCain among Republican insiders and political reporters. Among McCain’s obstacles has been a growing perception that the Arizona Republican failed to capitalize on his head start in the general election, and his campaign has seemed halting and disorganized in its daily messaging.
Schmidt has a reputation for a hard-charging, hard-working approach. He ran the Bush campaign’s rapid-response messaging “war room” in 2004, and also served as a top adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney before managing Schwarzenegger’s re-election.
Davis was installed as campaign manager last July, as part of a total revamping of the McCain operations that coincided with the campaign’s near-bankruptcy.