Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thompson Taking From McCain, As We Predicted

This is the story in today's WaPo. Fred's entry into the race is causing a stir, and John McCain is feeling it the most:

John Dowd represented Sen. John McCain in his darkest hour, the "Keating Five" scandal. He supported McCain the first time he ran for president in 2000 and signed up to be a major fundraiser for him in this year's presidential race. But when former senator Fred D. Thompson began thinking about running, the Washington lawyer changed his mind.

For McCain (Ariz.), who started off as the favorite to win the Republican nomination but now trails former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in most polls, Dowd's move signals yet another threat to his struggling campaign. As Thompson (Tenn.) builds his team of major fundraisers such as Dowd, the challenge for McCain will be to collect the millions of dollars necessary to maintain a nationwide campaign and convince Republicans that he is their best bet to retain the White House.

"I am very sorry to see what's happened to John," Dowd said in an interview. "I don't think his campaign is being well run. It's been over-managed. He blew through $8 1/2 million. It's a difficult thing to leave a friend and go to another friend. But we lost the John McCain I knew."

With the second-quarter deadline for reporting money raised only weeks away, Thompson's decision to become a candidate comes at a particularly bad time for McCain. After the initial fundraising results this year showed him behind former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Giuliani, McCain reorganized his fundraising staff and promised that the results would become apparent on June 30.

But now Thompson is aggressively pitching himself to conservatives uncomfortable with Giuliani, McCain and Romney, and hoping that he will be seen as a viable -- and fresh -- alternative to the current Republican field when he announces his candidacy early next month. He has already lined up the backing of a number of prominent Republicans, including George P. Bush, a nephew of President Bush.

Thompson's candidacy appears to present the most challenges for McCain. One of only three senators to endorse his candidacy when the lawmaker from Arizona sought the presidency in 2000, Thompson has been basking in media attention even as McCain has been the subject of attacks from the party base on the compromise immigration legislation he helped shape. Though the two shared remarkably similar voting records in the Senate, Thompson has assailed the immigration bill, which many Republicans dislike. He has also worked hard to convince social conservatives, who remain suspicious of McCain, that he is strongly against abortion.

The suspicion of John McCain will haunt him until his final days in the Senate. No offense to McCain supporters, but Senator Queeg brought this on himself. And when I say we predicted it, I mean precisely that. We knew he would end up bleeding Giuliani on the contributions side, but we knew that those who were dissatisfied with McCain would be jumping ship. John Dowd is not the first one, either. The Politico noted yesterday that McCain has lost one of his county chairs in South Carolina.

I will admit to readers that David Nix left the McCain campaign due to the rift over immigration. But that is the problem for McCain, and it will become a boon to Fred and to Mitt. No one could have imagined that McCain would stumble so early. Like many Americans I thought he would be the front-runner. But when Rudy officially entered the race and when Mitt did, too, it was glaringly apparent that McCain was finished.

His Q1 fundraising was abysmally paltry; only $12 million raised, and as Mr. Dowd pointed out, he ripped through $8.5 million of it in a very short time. Such mistakes can be a death blow to a campaign. Money and support are the liferblood of any political campaign. When the Q2 numbers come out, we are going to see John McCain facing a very tough decision. The numbers will not be good. He will still be polling in third or fourth place. He will have to decide whether he will stay in it, or do the sensible thing and pull out.



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