Archive for the ‘John McCain’ Category

Finance

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.

A Turning Point

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

The campaign strategy was to focus on a repeat performance of John McCain’s 2000 primary win in New Hampshire.  Knowing that Iowa had never been a strong state for John, partly due to his opposition to ethanol subsidiaries (sometimes straight talk doesn’t achieve the best political result); the plan was to spend only modest time there and go for broke in New Hampshire.

Under Rick Davis’s leadership the campaign had developed an austerity budget that continued through the fall. The basic concept was to keep total spending to $1.5 million per month, raise $2 million or more per month, and put some money in the bank for the final push in New Hampshire.

My role as Finance Co-Chairman was pretty simple – spend a few hours each day calling people to solicit $2300 contributions. In June and July, the success rate of those calls was at best 10 percent – pretty discouraging. However, it improved dramatically as we moved into September 2007.

The Republican primary debates began in September.  It was apparent that John was the best candidate on stage with substantive viewpoints and the necessary experience to lead. As a result our fundraising activity began to improve, and we surpassed the monthly goals set through the remainder of the year, paid off much of the campaign’s debt, and made significant investments into our messaging and political activities.

On September 19, we hosted one of John’s most successful fund raising dinners at my home in McLean, VA. We had 26 people and raised about $60,000. It seemed like a lot at the time and represented real progress from where we came, but it was still a far cry from what we needed and would later achieve.

We knew John had to win New Hampshire to have a shot at obtaining the nomination.  Although we didn’t have superior finances, we had a candidate who was committed to meeting every single voter.  So John spent the fall traveling across the state that had catapulted him to stardom just eight years earlier.  The polling numbers continued to rise.

The Iowa Caucus came, and Mike Huckabee had a surprise win over Mitt Romney with John coming in a respectable third, especially given that he virtually pulled out of the state months earlier.  This was a major boost to us since Romney has been leading in both Iowa and New Hampshire polls for months. All eyes turned to New Hampshire.

We received some great boosts including the endorsement and active campaigning of Senator Joe Lieberman, and the later endorsements from all the major newspapers, including those in Governor Romney’s hometown of Boston. By November, I was convinced John would win the nomination and even ventured forth with a blog to that effect as well as an Op Ed in the “Washington Times.”


Marlene and I joined the campaign’s leaders in New Hampshir e for a final get out the vote push.  It was apparent that our finance team had bonded a great deal since our time in Sedona that summer.  Everyone had worked tirelessly to ensure we would still be alive in New Hampshire, and it looked like we might actually have a shot to win.  We spent the morning going to polling places, holding “Vote McCain” signs – kind of a far cry from managing a campaign, but what else was there to do. In fact, the Washington Post even picked up on this in an article that appeared the next day.  We spent the afternoon making get out the vote calls and ended the day in John and Cindy’s suite at the Crown Plaza in Nashua.  Finally, the AP notified us that they were going to call the race for John.  A feat that had seemed impossible months earlier had just become a reality.

A Leadership Shift

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

After leaving Sedona on June 30th with a clearer picture of the campaign’s financial plight, Terry and John Weaver returned to campaign headquarters with the resolve to lighten the campaign’s monthly burn rate.  They ordered each department to terminate members of their staff.  This day, which became known as Black Monday, ended with a much smaller campaign staff.  This of course impacted the Finance Department too; shrinking the organization to just seven members.   These reductions were needed, and in my view came very late considering our financial situation.

Meanwhile, while in Iraq, John realized the campaign needed more stringent control on spending and a fresh leadership perspective.  He decided to turn to Rick Davis, his 2000 campaign manager, long-time friend and confidant.  Up to this point, Rick had been serving as the campaign’s CEO, a position that was more relationship building than operational.

When John returned to Washington, DC he met with Terry and John Weaver and explained his decision to bring Rick Davis back into the leadership structure. Terry and John Weaver then resigned from the campaign, and the remaining staff at headquarters was abuzz with resignations.  The Finance Department went from its six members to three. Mary Kate Johnson, Jim McCray, her deputy, and two other members of the finance staff resigned that day.  At the close of business, a meeting was held with Rick Davis and the remaining staff.  People were looking around the room and wondering just how many days were left.

My sense of what went wrong up to this point was that the people running the campaign had earned their spurs in the Bush campaign where he was the presidential nominee in 2000 and the certain nominee in 2004. They seemed to feel in 2007 that John McCain was the presumptive nominee this time and that they could mount a large and costly campaign from the start, replicating their successful efforts in the Bush campaigns. They also seemed not to realize how weak John’s support was among the Conservative base, and how vital that base was to a successful fund raising effort.

Despite the fact the campaign was declared dead by the pundits, that the entire staff could fit into a single conference room, and that we were several million dollars in debt, not a single member of the Finance Committee abandoned their support for John McCain.

Without a Finance Director, Tom Loeffler turned to Susan Nelson, a former fundraiser who was working at his firm to take over the day-to-day operations. Tom also asked Brian Haley, a third year law student at UT Austin, who had taken the year off to work at Tom’s firm and assist him at the campaign to assume the responsibilities of the deputy finance director.

Rick, Tom, and Susan requested an emergency conference call with the National Finance Co-chairman that next day.  Rick explained the campaign’s situation. He shared that John had instituted a new Budget Oversight Committee with fiduciary responsibility over all major financial decisions at the Campaign and promised to reign in the out of control spending and begin to pay down the debt. The news was dire but the participants each recommitted their support.

Tom, Susan and Brian devised a new strategy to raise money for the campaign. They recommended we focus our major fundraising swings in four states: California, New York, Texas, and Florida. In addition, as an effort to save travel costs, they outlined a strategy to visit states in the periphery of the early Primary States where John was spending much of his time.  This was a tough period for all of us associated with the McCain campaign. John had sunk down to single digits in some polls, he trailed Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson by wide margins, Romney was on his way to a big win in the Iowa straw poll, and many press articles were no longer even mentioning John when discussing the field. Some friends were laughing at me for my continual support, and all but a very few told me his campaign was dead. I didn’t believe it and continued to believe his proven leadership, his determination, his character, and his view of the future (including Iraq and immigration) would eventually prevail. So we marched on.

For me the turning point came on John and Cindy’s trip to Aspen on August 15. I am a part time resident of Aspen, especially in the summer, and have the pleasure to serve on the Board and Executive Committee of the Aspen Institute. Each year in August, we have an awards dinner where we honor people of distinction, and in 2005 we honored John McCain and Joe Lieberman together for their bipartisan leadership. The Institute also invites distinguished speakers for late afternoon forums, and the Institute’s President, Walter Isaacson and I discussed inviting John to speak the summer of 2007.   I was impressed by the positive response from Democrats and Republicans alike to John’s speech at the Aspen Institute.  People approached me asking what they could do to help.

Later we hosted a small dinner at our home for John and Cindy with ten of our friends, some McCain supporters and some Democrats. Included were Bill and Cathy Mayer (then Chairman of the Aspen Institute), Bob and Jillian Steel (current Chairman and former Under Secretary of Treasury), Stewart and Lynda Resnick, Rick and Erica Horvitz, and Walter and Cathy Isaacson. It was a lively discussion and I became even more convinced John would become our nominee.  He was on fire throughout the dinner, and won over all 14 people present.

On the broader political front, Rick, Charlie Black, and John decided to focus the campaign on John’s commitment to win the war in Iraq and his successful call for the surge strategy.  At the time, the country was still very much focused on the outcome of the war and the surge had just begun to take effect.  John hopped on the re-branded Straight Talk Express for his No Surrender Tour, visiting halls, diners and the like mainly in New Hampshire. There was John flying alone on commercial airlines, carrying his own bags, and engaging the constant barter with reporters and others on the bus. This was the real John McCain again – the Mac was back. A strategy partially borne of frugality was working. People relished the straight talk, the refusal to pander, the direct and honest responses to issues they would raise. John was winning voters one and two at a time. Retail politics at its best.

Life was slowly, but surely being breathed back into the campaign. The new fundraising strategy was paying off, and the political tide was changing.  We even met August’s budget projections.

Next post, I’ll share a first-person view and what that was like of the real “turn-around” for the campaign.

McCain Campaign: The Early Days

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

The 2008 presidential campaigns will long be remembered as historic.  Of course, one of the most remarkable thresholds crossed was the record breaking financial resources raised and spent through the process.  In fact our fund-raising for McCain-Palin 2008 raised over $450 million, by far the most successful in Republican Presidential campaign history.  The previous record was $260 million, set by Bush-Cheney in 2004.  Much will be discussed over the coming years on how political races should be financed.  With record shattering funds raised by both campaigns and political parties it’s easy to see why.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I had the distinct privilege of serving first as a National Finance Co-chairman and then as de-facto National Finance Chairman for Senator McCain these past two years. While I have served on many campaigns, in a variety of different leadership positions, this was the first time I focused most of my energies on finance.   Having spent the past few months reflecting on my time leading the finance team I would like to share a few of my observations, in a short series of posts over the next few days about this historic campaign.  I welcome any and all thoughts that you’d like to share.

THE EARLY DAYS

John McCain approached me to support his bid for President in mid-2006.  Although I had been contacted by each of the to-be Republican candidates, it was an easy choice to support John. My initial assignment was to Chair or Co-Chair a Senior Advisor Group that would meet with John every other week to provide an objective and unvarnished view of what was right and what was wrong with the campaign:  to give those hard truths that are often difficult to get from staff.  This assignment was exciting to me as it tied in with my prior political roles as 1988 Convention Director and 1992 Campaign Manager for President George H.W. Bush.  However, due to John’s campaign travel and Senate responsibilities, it never really got off the ground.  In March 2007, it became apparent that fundraising was lagging, and I was asked to serve as one of his original 20 National Finance Co-chairman and charged with the task of helping to raise $100 million for the primary. That seemed like an awful lot.

As someone who supported John’s bid from the beginning, it’s hard to forget the high political ups and deep political downs the campaign faced through the election cycle.  Thinking back, one of the original disappointments we encountered was the announcement of poor fundraising numbers during the first quarter of 2007.  Much of this was due to John’s steadfast and courageous support of the unpopular surge in Iraq and of immigration reform.

Regardless of the inflow of cash, the campaign’s leadership, who at that point consisted of Terry Nelson as Campaign Manager and John Weaver as Chief Political Strategist, was still spending towards the $100 million budget.  The campaign was at its first major (of what would be many) finance hurdles.  As a result, John Weaver and Carla Eudy asked Tom Loeffler, who was then serving as General Co-chairman and as a National Finance Co-chairman, to assume the responsibilities of National Finance Chairman.

Tom approached his new responsibilities, and the dire financial situation, with the calm and collective presence that he always portrays.  What was unapparent however, was the tremendous turmoil-taking place behind the scenes. It wasn’t more than a month before an announcement came that Mary Kate Johnson would replace Carla Eudy as the campaign’s finance director.

Not long after Carla’s departure, a meeting of the National Finance Co-chairman occurred and a plan was laid out to reach the necessary targets to meet the budget and win the Republican primary.  We left the meeting with assurances that spending was under control and that more time was being allocated to accommodate additional fundraising events across the country.

June served as the final fundraising month of the second quarter and John planned to spend a great deal of time traveling the country raising funds and gathering support for the campaign. Unfortunately, political plans do not often line up with realities.  In June of 2007 Congress decided to tackle the very divisive issue of Immigration Reform.

Whether you loved or hated John’s position in the Immigration debate, his actions that June exhibited the quintessential get-in-the-middle, role up your sleeves, bi-partisan leadership that has marked his service to our country.  Unfortunately, at the time, much of the Republican base did not see this leadership as a positive attribute.  As a result, the fundraising well dried up, and it could not have come at a worse time.

The National Finance Co-chairmen were invited to John and Cindy’s beautiful cabin in Sedona to review campaign strategy and fundraising. The date was June 30.

Terry and John Weaver presented the situation to us. The campaign had accrued a great deal of debt due to heavy spending and the harsh fundraising environment in June.  In fact the campaign was not only broke but owed money.  Despite the problem, John remained encouraged and upbeat.  He shared his vision for America and thanked us for continuing to support his bid. Marlene and I enjoyed the stay at the McCain’s cabin thoroughly and left with deep concerns but continued commitment.

John left Sedona and headed to Iraq with his good friends and colleagues Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman.  Although we left Sedona with great uncertainty on the future of the campaign, we also left with a stronger commitment to John and his vision for our country, and a deeper impression of his resolute discipline and perseverance.

It’s funny given that I run in both business and political circles, for years if not decades, I would consistently hear CEOs complain about politicians and Washington and state, “if politicians could only be for like us, Washington and this country would be a better place.”  In light of our current economic crisis, I can say without a doubt if every CEO had the discipline, perseverance and sense of honor of John McCain, this economy and this country would be in a much better place.

Up next, I will share my thoughts on “the leadership shake-up” and the beginning of the turn-around in the McCain campaign that led all the way to the nomination in St. Paul last summer.

Inauguration, Alfalfa, McCain and Palin

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

It’s been a few months since my last posting, but recent events in Washington, namely the inauguration of President Obama, brought old friends and campaign memories to the forefront.

The January 20 Inauguration and the January 31 Alfalfa Club dinner brought me in close quarters again with John McCain and allowed me to bring John and Sarah Palin together for the first time since election night.

I have met numerous times since the election with John McCain and have been heartened and inspired by his refusal to look backward, his total absence of bitterness or even disappointment, and his singular focus on helping meet the challenges facing our country. Senator Obama was gracious to have a dinner the night before his inauguration honoring John McCain, and the bipartisan spirit of the gathering together with John’s heartfelt and supportive remarks added to my admiration for this man of extraordinary character. The next day was the Inauguration Day, and that night I was privileged to host a dinner at my home for John, Cindy, and a small group of friends and supporters. It was light hearted, and the only looking back consisted of stories by John, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins about some of the lighter moments and faux pas on their trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and other hot spots.

A little over a week later was the Alfalfa Club dinner. Alfalfa is a 200 member club with mostly illustrious members such as leading Senators, Congressmen, CEOs, Supreme Court Justices, and former Presidents, as well as a few such as myself, who somehow slipped past the screening. The club does absolutely nothing other than an annual dinner filled with patriotism, bipartisanship, and very humorous speakers, including traditionally the President. Each member is allowed to bring two guests and one of mine this year was Sarah Palin. The night before, last reported by Roxanne Roberts of the “Washington Post”, Marlene and I hosted a small dinner at our home for my Alfalfa guests and a few other friends. Here is what impressed me most over the weekend:

  • The warmth John McCain showed toward Sarah Palin when she arrived at my home Friday night. It was the first time they had been together since the election, and their good feelings toward each other were evident. 
  • The gracious and engaged Sarah Palin was with everyone. It was great to see her in deep conversations with people like Alan Greenspan, Madeleine Albright, Walter Isaacson, and Mitch McConnell. For sure, nothing shallow about this lady. 
  • The celebrity treatment Sarah received from the highly sophisticated crowd at Alfalfa. There were as many or more people lined up to meet her as there was for President Obama. 
  • Sarah’s singular focus on her job as Governor of Alaska. She left Anchorage on a 2:30 a.m. flight Friday so as not to miss a day on the job, and she singled out people to meet who could be impactful to Alaska, including President Obama.
  • Sarah’s grace and charisma reminded me of why she had been selected as John McCain’s running mate.

All of this brings me to a few reflections on the 2008 campaign which I will offer in the coming days, in a series of a few postings.

Reflections On A Great Campaign And An Honorable Man

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

My blog has been dormant for the past six months due to my focus on the McCain campaign as well as business – not that anyone noticed. However, one of my two loyal followers (confession – my daughter) suggested it would be worthwhile to share some of my observations on the longest and most expensive campaign in history. I will follow this, as time permits, with a little more detail on various facets of the campaign.

First, by way of background, I served as a Co-Chairman of the campaign for over two years, becoming Deputy National Finance Chairman in February 2008. In May our Finance Chairman, Tom Loeffler, resigned and as a result, I became de facto National Finance Chairman for McCain 2008. I jumped in close to full time, attending 7:30am senior staff meetings, travelling to selective events with Senator McCain, and overseeing all of our fund raising efforts.

On a personal level, it was my honor and privilege to serve a truly great patriot who would have made a superb President. I made many new friends, worked with a wonderful team, and don’t regret a single moment. Some of the highlights were being at Senator McCain’s side in Dallas, the night he clinched the nomination …

… and staying with the McCains at the Sedona cabin on several occasions. I even got him to wear a West Point (USMA) hat.

Now, let me comment briefly on John McCain, Sarah Palin, fund raising, and why we lost. I will follow this, as time permits, in the next few weeks with a little more detail on each.

John McCain

John McCain is simply one of the finest and most honorable men I have ever met. He is at one point a great statesman, and at the same time a regular guy who likes nothing better than hanging out in jeans and an old T-shirt, cooking ribs and hamburgers for his guests in Sedona. There is no pretense here – what you see is what you get – the real deal. But what impressed me most during this long campaign were his indefatigable energy, his determination and his consistency in putting country first. Who can ever forget his decision to lead the support for the surge in Iraq when the American public was squarely against it? He knew this could cause him to lose the nomination, and it almost did. As he dropped to single digits in the polls and was all but written off by the national press, he led the fight to reform immigration, an anathema to so many of our best supporters and contributors. It became next to impossible to raise money during this period, but his example kept us together, working hard during the long summer of 2007. Remember his cost cutting and his traveling alone, carrying his bag through airport security, conducting town halls and restaurant stops through New Hampshire. Determination, honor, conviction – that’s John McCain.

Sarah Palin

I did not recommend Sarah Palin and was surprised by her selection. However, I am now a fan and deplore the small minded people who are striking out against her. Sarah and her husband, Todd, spent time with Marlene and I at our home in Virginia in early September. She is smart, quick, charming, and able. Both Sarah and Todd impressed us on a personal level, and of course her ability as a communicator has been proven. If there are any questions on her preparation for interviews, the finger should point not at her but to those who helped her prepare. Having talked to the top people in the campaign, I am convinced that any criticism has come from third level, fourth raters who for some reason have an axe to grind. Sarah Palin will have an important role in the future of the Republican Party.

Finance

There has been a lot written on fund raising, and I intend to share more in depth observations later. At this point, let me share a few highlights:

  • Fund raising for the McCain primary and McCain-Palin 2008 was by far the most successful in history for a Republican presidential campaign.
  • The campaign raised over $400,000,000 eclipsing the record set by Bush-Cheney 2004. These numbers include money raised for the Republican National Committee, under the McCain-Palin Victory 2008 banner.
  • We exceeded by substantial margins every goal or challenge given to us by campaign leadership.
  • The Trailblazer, Innovator, Navigator and Aviator programs helped enormously in our major donor fundraising. We recruited over 1,000 people who together accounted for close to $100 million funds raised.
  • Senator Obama did raise more, but not as much more as believed when one considers the huge amount his campaign raised and spent during their long, contested primary. In my view, the key advantage Senator Obama enjoyed was the flexibility to spend his money however he pleased due to the absence of public financing constraints.

Why We Lost

For my part, the best and most accurate summation can be found in Charles Krauthammer’s column in the November 7 Washington Post. He wrote:

“The patient was fatally stricken on September 15 – caught in the rubble when the roof fell in.” He adds: “This was not just a meltdown, but a panic. For an agonizing few days, there was a collapse in faith in the entire financial system….This did not just have the obvious effect of turning people again the incumbent party, however great or tenuous the responsibility for the crisis. It had the more profound effect of making people see shelter in government.”

That, in my view, was the key to our loss. Never in my life have I seen anything remotely as crippling and trouble as this meltdown. Never in the history of polling have 90 percent of the population felt the country was going in the wrong direction. Did the campaign make some mistakes? Of course, but all campaigns do. And the campaign did a lot of things right. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that John McCain came back from the near death to win the nomination and was actually about three points ahead before the financial collapse.

And of course, David Plouffe and David Axelrod ran a superb campaign for Senator Obama, who proved to be a fine orator and campaigner. As my own candidate has stated, we Americans all pray for the success of President-elect Obama, and we will lend our support to help make it so.

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McCain Puts Sound Organization Together

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

The McCain campaign recently announced the appointment of Steve Schmidt as Senior Advisor, reporting to Rick Davis. The press of course, presented this as a major shake up, which it was not. Rather it was the positive and natural evolution in a campaign organization that is morphing from a small start up company to a larger organization almost overnight.  As Deputy National Finance Chairman, I’ve had the opportunity to view this first hand.

Having been President and CEO of two major companies; Northwest Airlines and Marriott Hotels, as well as National Campaign Manager for former President Bush, I have some understanding of organizational needs, and view this as a great move. Rick Davis is the man who engineered one of the greatest political comebacks in recent U.S. history, operating with minimal funding, and helping John McCain capture the nomination after the media and many people had written him off last summer and fall.  Rick remains as the Campaign CEO, with more time to focus on large emerging challenges such as the Republican Convention and selection of a running mate.  In addition, we now have in Steve Schmidt, a chief operating officer who was earned enormous and well deserved respect for his political, strategic and operational accomplishments.  It also has been a natural evolution, with Steve spending more time at headquarters in the weeks preceding his appointment, so he has been able to hit the ground running. Thus, overall, I view this as a superb organizational development and am excited by Steve’s new role and the added leadership he will bring to the campaign.

Plea For Unity

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Yesterday I submitted my resignation as Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve over the past 18 months under two good friends, former Chairs Ed Gillespie and John Hager. I have great admiration for both of these men, and they served the Republican Party and the Commonwealth of Virginia with great distinction.

My letter to Chairman Jeff Frederick stated:

June 2, 2008

Delegate Jeff Frederick
Chairman
Republican Party of Virginia
115 East Grace Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Jeff:

Congratulations on your election as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. You campaigned with great vigor and energy, characteristics that will undoubtedly serve you well as leader of our party in Virginia.

With this letter I submit my resignation effective immediately as Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. There are two reasons:

  • First and foremost, I serve as Deputy National Finance Chairman for the McCain campaign. The demands and needs of this position are increasingly significant, and I need to devote more time to ensure that we reach our targeted goals.
  • Secondly, I believe it is important for you to have the opportunity to select your own team, including Finance Chairman.

It has been an honor to serve as Finance Chair of the Republican Party of Virginia for the past year and a half, a period when we doubled the amounts raised over 2006. I wish you great success in your new role, and you can count on my continued support in your noble quest to elect Republicans to national, state and local offices.

Sincerely,

Fred Malek

I learned a lot about my wonderful state over these 18 months and made a host of new friends, people who are dedicated, competent, and a pleasure to know. As I devote my time to the McCain campaign, this knowledge and these people will be helpful.

I also had a very nice conversation with Jeff Frederick yesterday, was impressed with his approach, and will be supportive of his efforts. It is essential for our party to remain united to be successful in our pivotal races this year and next. Jeff has great energy and determination, and I believe he will be successful. It is up to all of us to help make it so.

John McCain is a great candidate and will win Virginia and be our next President, and this will help Jim Gilmore prevail in his Senate bid. We are blessed with a united ticket at the top for 2009 with two of the finest people I know in elective politics, Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling. I will be doing my part to keep our party united. If we do so, we will be successful.

Let’s Keep Cancer Off The Campaign Trail

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

One of my proudest activities is my work on behalf of cancer research. My wife Marlene is President of Friends of Cancer Research, where I am a contributor, and she is on the board of, and I am a contributor to, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Leadership Council.

Finding a cure for cancer is a vitally important mission for this country. Supporting that mission should unite everyone – and should be off-limits from the political and partisan battlefield.

That’s why I was more than a bit concerned to see Elizabeth Edwards – herself a heroic cancer survivor and inspiration for us all – bring cancer into the presidential race.

Here’s what I read on Jake Tapper’s blog at ABC News:

Speaking to the Association of Health Care Journalists on Saturday, Elizabeth Edwards said that she and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have something in common in addition to being cancer survivors: “Neither one of us would be covered by his health policy.”

Edwards — the wife of former presidential candidate and Sen. John Edwards, D-NC — said that insurance companies, under McCain’s proposal, “wouldn’t have to cover preexisting conditions like melanoma and breast cancer.”

Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, senior policy advisor to McCain, told the Los Angeles Times that, in the words of the Times, “Edwards’ comments were disappointing and that they revealed she did not understand the comprehensive nature of the senator’s proposal.”

Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said McCain’s policy would harness “the power of competition to produce greater coverage for Americans.”

I give Mrs. Edwards all the benefit of the doubt in the world on this one, that she really has our best interests at heart by introducing John McCain – who is Honorary Co-chairman, Advisory Board of Directors of the Arizona Cancer Research Foundation — into the political conversation.

I just hope that it doesn’t become a common occurrence on the campaign trail. The cancer conversation is best left to the experts, researchers, and doctors.

The Economy Needs Bold Action, Not Partisan Attacks

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

John McCain gave a masterful speech on the economy this week.

Masterful because McCain’s plan would, in his words:

“ ….strengthen the foundations of the millions of businesses small and large that provide jobs for American workers. There is no government program or policy that is a substitute for a good job. These steps would also strengthen the U.S. dollar and help to control the rising cost of living that hurts our families.”

Naturally, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton immediately attacked him.

Obama:

“John McCain has said that he doesn’t understand the economy as well as he should, and yesterday he proved it in the speech he gave about the housing crisis.”

Hillary Clinton:

“It sounds remarkably like Herbert Hoover, and I don’t think that’s a good economic policy.”

Ad hominem attacks aren’t the way to get the economy moving in the right direction again.

Bold action will — the kind of steps Sen. McCain would take, such as:

  • keeping taxes low on our families, entrepreneurs, and small businesses
  • making the tax code simpler and fair by eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax
  • improving the ability of our companies to compete by reducing our corporate tax rate
  • providing investment incentives and controlling rising health care costs

As someone with a lot of practical business experience, I see first-hand everyday how much these sound policies are needed.

It’s fine to debate policy. I enjoy a good discussion, most especially with my political adversaries, about the direction our country should be headed in. I’m confident that our side will win each debate, on the merits. But let’s leave it at that – a debate over tactics and strategy, not personality.

Sen. McCain is right in saying, “I will not play election year politics with the housing crisis. I will evaluate everything in terms of whether it might be harmful or helpful to our effort to deal with the crisis we face now.”

I hope the other candidates follow his example.

Meantime, you can see part of McCain’s speech in this Associated Press YouTube video.