Archive for the ‘2008’ Category


Monday, March 9th, 2009

The last chapter of this spellbinding (at least to me) campaign narrative culminated with John McCain’s New Hampshire victory on January 8, 2008. Naturally this gave great impetus to our fundraising. As we moved through the remaining primaries I had the privilege to join John and Cindy at many more victory celebrations. The closer we got to capturing the nomination we found ourselves having serious discussions about the status and future of the campaign’s finance structure. We knew if we were going to compete against the Democrats it would take a serious transformation; one similar to a start-up company going corporate overnight.

Tom Loeffler asked me in late January to take on a more serious role in the restructuring, taking on the number two position as Deputy National Finance Chairman. At the same time, Rick Davis wanted to create a simple avenue for our donors to contribute as large a sum of money as possible to help John. Similar to previous campaigns, a Victory effort was formed at the Republican National Committee. It combined a series of committees under one entity, so an individual could contribute up to $70,100. Lew Eisenberg and Wayne Berman, also fellow National Co-chairmen, were asked to lead up the new Victory fundraising efforts, and they did so with great skill and success.

Tom Loeffler, Susan and I focused on the needed primary and General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance Fund (GELAC) dollars, while Victory focused on the RNC money. Our goal was to raise $50 million primary and GELAC money prior to the convention, plus help Victory raise more than that to support RNC campaign efforts. In fact, we held the first victory event in my office in the Willard Building on April 8, 2008. It was a round table, and we raised $280,000 with only two days notice.

We immediately began to strengthen our finance operation and added programs and structure. We decided to develop a major donor program that recognized the efforts of our fundraisers and created a simple avenue for our new donors to get involved in our leadership structure. We adopted a model similar to the tremendously successful Ranger & Pioneer programs from the Bush/Cheney Campaign and called the groups the Trailblazers for those who would raise $100,000, and Innovators for those who would raise $250,000 in Primary and GELAC dollars.

During this ramp up and afterwards, I spent roughly 75 percent of my time on the campaign, usually starting by attending the 7:30am senior staff meeting, meeting with the finance team, calling regional chairmen, overseeing events, recruiting large donors, and recruiting Trailblazers and Innovators. For us it was a family affair, and I was particularly proud of our daughter, Michelle Olson, who raised over $1 million and served as a model of how to do it. Basically, she organized her own mini-campaign, reaching out to her network to form a leadership committee with titles based on achievement. She held a kick off reception for her group with me as a guest and Senator John Thune as a speaker by phone. She provided materials and training for her team, organized other mini-events, and recruited donors for the larger events that John and Cindy McCain would attend. She was even profiled along with a few others in the Washington Post article on McCain fundraising.

In April, the media began to target lobbyists involved in the campaign’s leadership structure, and in May they focused on Tom Loeffler’s role as Finance Chairman. John McCain and the campaign leadership determined that lobbyists had two choices: resign from lobbying or resign from the campaign. Unable to give up his livelihood or abandon his clients, Tom resigned from the campaign.

Now I have never been or even hired a lobbyist. However, I believe lobbyists perform an important and necessary service in helping to connect legislators to constituents, and the vast majorities are dedicated and honorable people. And while agreeing that lobbyists performing at high levels of campaigns should be prohibited from discussing client policy issues with the leader they serve, I also feel that the media, as well as campaign leadership, overreacted and created a sort of frenzy over the issue. Tom Loeffler should have remained with the campaign.

With Tom’s departure, I was asked to take over the role as defacto National Finance Chairman for the McCain campaign. It added to the load. To manage the programs I divided the country into regions and appointed chairmen to work with the state chairmen already in place. Operationally the committed campaign finance staff managed the program. Sarah Lynch served as the director of the programs, and John Cook, Campbell Engle, and Alex Lawhon served as regional directors for all fundraising activities. The programs took off, and over 1,000 people signed on to raise money for us.

It was extremely rewarding to think back on the year, going from a small fundraising dinner at my home to chairing a finance committee with over 1,000 committed fundraisers. It certainly was a testament to John McCain’s leadership and tireless service to our country. We far exceeded the original $50 million goal for the primary by early July and set out to raise an additional $100 million primary and GELAC money by the election in November.

As an incentive, we offered that anyone who achieved Trailblazer or Innovator status by August 1 would be invited to a two day retreat in Aspen in mid-August (it helps that John likes Aspen). The Aspen retreat was a huge draw and a great success – and a lot of fun. In addition to John and Cindy, we had with us Jack and Joanne Kemp, Governor Mark and Jenny Sanford, Governor Jon and Mary Kaye Huntsman and Senator John and Kimberley Thune. The Kemps and the Sanfords stayed with us. While John was the main attraction, starring at our opening dinners, I’ll never forget Jack Kemp’s rousing talk on the economy at lunch the next day, drawing the group to their feet with his charisma and peroration, or the inspirational talks by Mark Sanford, Jon Hunstman, and John Thune that evening at the reception at our house.

In August we ramped up our focus on the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We invited all of our successful Trailblazers, Innovators, Chairman, and major supporters and ended up having over 600 participants to attend through our Friends and Family program. The Friday before the Convention, John announced his selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP’s Vice Presidential nominee. She was a tremendous asset to our fundraising activity. Overnight, our internet fundraising went through the roof, raising several million dollars a day. Becky Donatelli ran this operation with great skill, and it produced superior results through Election Day.

Perhaps my most memorable moment in the campaign came that next week at the Convention. It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience to sit in the Friends and Family Suite as John delivered his nomination address. I was moved by his vision for the country and reminded why we had worked so hard to ensure he made it this far.

McCain Momentum

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

John McCain should be and will be the 2008 Republican candidate for President of the United States. If nominated, as expected, he will be our next president.

Let’s first visit why this man of honor and conviction should be the nominee.  As I wrote in an opinion piece on November 30 (The Washington Times, November 30), the four core reasons are principle, consistency, character, and national security.  Apparently, a lot of better minds than mine agree with this assessment.

As for principles, I argued that Senator McCain will always be guided by his core beliefs and not by polls. Listen to what the Manchester Union Leader said in his December 2nd endorsement: “McCain can be trusted to make informed decisions based on the best interests of his country, come hell or high water.” Or as the Portsmouth Herald stated in its endorsement: “McCain will tell you the truth, even if it costs him the election.”

Principles of course lend to Senator McCain’s consistency. As the Des Moines Register states in its December 16 endorsement: “time after time, McCain has stuck to his beliefs in the force of opposition from other elected leaders and the public.” Or listen to Senator Lieberman in his December 17th endorsement statement: “You may not agree with John McCain on every issue, but you can always count on him to be honest with you about where he stands, you can always count on him to stand for what he believes is right for our country – regardless of pressure from politicians or vested interests.”

And principles and consistency of course are a result of character that gives Senator McCain the courage to make the right choice no matter the political price. The Boston Globe in its December 15th endorsement stated it well: “McCain’s views differ from those of this editorial page in a variety of ways. Yet McCain’s honesty has served him well.” Even more powerful was Senator Lieberman’s statement: “John McCain has proven that we can trust him to do what is right for our country, not only when it is easy, but when it is hard; to do what is necessary, not only when it is popular, but when it is not; and to tell us the truth, not only when it is easy to hear, but when it is not.”

Beyond these personal characteristics that have resulted in these four key editorial endorsements, and the endorsement of a great bi-partisan Senate leader, there is Senator McCain’s life long leadership and skill in defending our nation, in preserving national security. But don’t listen to me – look at the ringing endorsements of four Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Alexandra Haig and Lawrence Eagleburger.

I would now add a fifth core reason John McCain should be the Republican nominee – electability. The most recent polling (CNN/Opinion Research of December 11th) shows McCain beating Hillary Clinton in a head to head while Mrs. Clinton bests the other leading GOP contenders by 5 to 11 points. Respected columnist David Broder saw this even before the poll when he observed in his December 2nd column: “If the Republican Party wanted to hold on to the White House in 2009, it will grit its teeth and nominate a ticket of John McCain for President and Mike Huckabee for Vice President.”

Well if he’s the man of proven principles, consistency, character, and national security excellence, and if he’s the Republican candidate who can win in November, – why will he get the GOP nomination? It can be summed up in these events that will play out in January:

Governor Romney will be embarrassed on January 3rd in Iowa by Mike Huckabee winning or coming in a close second. Senator McCain, as everyone expect, will do poorly in Iowa despite the welcome endorsement of the Des Moines Register. After all, he opposes ethanol subsidies, and only about 4 percent of Iowans will turn out for the caucuses. The story out of Iowa will be Governor Huckabee who in the face of a Romney juggernaut and badly outspent, with a barrage of negative ads, came back to score. David will slay or at least embarrass Goliath.

New Hampshire on January 8th, which is a true primary with large turnout, will be the real test. Its outcome will be largely determinant in nominating our candidate, and John McCain will defy the expectations of all those who have written him off and will win or finish a close second. The senator has been consistently rising in the polls and is now in second place, not too far behind Romney. Senator McCain will close this gap with the help of Romney’s uninspiring showing in Iowa, by the 44 percent of New Hampshire voters who are independents, by the large number of registered Republicans who have indicated an absence of deep commitment to their favored candidate, and by the large group of voters who are currently undecided. He would be aided further by a Clinton victory in Iowa, encouraging independents to vote in the Republican primary vs. a competitive Democrat Primary. The endorsements from the Union Leader, Herald, and Globe will help, but the main boost to McCain will be the Granite States’ voters realizing they want a candidate whose principles, consistency, character, and fortitude match their own. As they search deep within themselves, they will realize, as did Joe Lieberman, that John McCain is the only candidate with these characteristics – and the only candidate who can unite and lead this country.

The South Carolina primary is eleven days later. In these eleven days, Senator McCain will be celebrated as the “comeback kid.” The reasons he came up from the back of the pack will be headlined, analyzed, and discussed endlessly. And the reasons will be clear to all that they are what leading columnists and editorial boards have finally perceived; principles, consistency, character, national security, and electability. These reasons will be embraced by a state where military tradition and character are prized, and Senator McCain will win the South Carolina Primary on January 19th.

The force of momentum from these early primaries could turn this into a two man contest – McCain vs. Giuliani. If so, where do you suppose conservative voters will go? Even if it isn’t a two man race at this point, John McCain will be poised to roll to victory in Michigan, and Florida, and the February 5th Super Tuesday races.

John McCain will be the Republic nominee for President. And he will be the next President of the United States. If so, the American people will be well served.