(CNN) - John McCain’s campaign announced a shakeup at the top Wednesday, in the wake of growing Republican concern about its ability to compete against Barack Obama.
Campaign Manager Rick Davis said Tuesday morning that senior adviser Steve Schmidt would take over day-to-day operations of the campaign. The Bush campaign veteran will report to Davis, but the rest of the campaign will report to Schmidt, who will be in charge of everything from message and communications, to the political structure and organization to scheduling.
(CNN) - The RNC has created an independent expenditure campaign that will go up with its first TV ads in crucial battleground states this weekend.
CNN is told the first buy is in the ballpark of $3 million, and the subject of the ad will be “energy security.”
Parties are allowed by law to set up an independent expenditure campaign as long as it operates independently and does not coordinate on content or strategy with the party.
“Following Barack Obama's decision to become the only major party presidential candidate in history to not adhere to campaign spending caps, the Republican National Committee has begun an independent expenditure campaign in accordance with FEC regulations," Brad Todd, a consultant to the RNC's independent expenditure unit said in a statement. "The RNC will first advertise this weekend in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, highlighting the issue of energy security, which is emerging as a defining difference in the race for president."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - With gas prices reaching a national average of four dollars a gallon - a record high - John McCain is planning to resurrect his call for a national gas tax holiday, which became a staple of his stump speech in late April and early May.
A McCain aide told CNN's Dana Bash on Monday that the Arizona senator planned to plug the gas tax holiday in public statements throughout the day as a message to voters that he understands the plight of working families in a tough economy.
Before a fundraiser in Richmond, Virginia on Monday, McCain mentioned the gas tax holiday in remarks to a smaller event for about 40 high-dollar donors. "That was derided by Sen. Obama and others as a gimmick," McCain said, but added that working people and truckers would appreciate it.
"I don't pretend that it's an answer to our energy problems," he said.
Gas prices have risen more than 10 percent from $3.671 a month ago and are nearly 29 percent higher than the $3.105 average a year ago, according to AAA figures.
McCain's original gas tax holiday proposal called for suspending the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Hillary Clinton supported a similar proposal during her Democratic primary bid.
Along with Barack Obama, many economists largely dismissed the notion of a gas tax holiday as a political ruse that would do little to lower prices, but McCain has repeatedly said he does not believe the proposal would be a panacea for America’s energy woes.
Instead, McCain argued, low-income families could save some extra cash to pay for their children’s school supplies this fall, or perhaps treat themselves to a nice dinner.
UPDATE: Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan blasted McCain for continuing to push the plan.
"By touting a gas tax holiday as part of his proposal for economic recovery in Virginia today, Senator McCain proved he was right when he said he doesn't understand the economy as well as he needs to," he said in a statement emailed to reporters.
DENVER, Colorado (CNN) – A voter at a John McCain campaign event told the presumptive Republican nominee that he needed a “Swift Boats for McCain” group to aid his campaign this fall.
Air Force veteran Clif Sams told McCain that he had done a “damn good job” surviving his imprisonment during the Vietnam War. He then told the senator: “I hope that we have somebody called Swift Boats for McCain come out and help you. You’re damn good.”
“Thank you sir, and thank you for your service,” McCain responded.
In 2004, McCain vigorously defended John Kerry against attacks from “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” a group which sought to undermine Kerry’s Vietnam war record. At the time, the Arizona senator called the ads “dishonest and dishonorable.”
Asked why McCain had not had a similar reaction to Friday’s "Swift Boats for McCain" comment, campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the senator had repeatedly staked out a “clear position” against third-party groups, and "the only 527 activity is against us."
Sams, the Air Force veteran who now sells life insurance, re-iterated to CNN after the town hall that he would like to see a group similar to “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” to help McCain defend himself from Democratic attacks in the general election.
He predicted “there will be a lot of veterans like us who come out of the woodwork this fall” to assist McCain.
(CNN) - Campaigning across the border in Ohio, John McCain insists he’s neutral about what happens in Pennsylvania’s primary and Democratic contests beyond.
“I have never stated whether I wanted this election to stretch out or not. That is up to the Democratic Party voters and I have nothing to do with that,” said McCain.
The Republican nominee in waiting said he doesn’t know whether the Democratic race helps or hurts him, saying he’s heard arguments for both.
But privately some of McCain’s advisers tell CNN they do have an opinion. They’re secretly rooting for a big Pennsylvania win for Hillary Clinton, because they’ve concluded the longer Democrats bruise each other in battle, the better it is for McCain.
(CNN) - As the Democratic primary battle stretches long into spring, John McCain’s campaign said Friday it has already set up its general election structure.
The staff has grown from 100 to 150, the polling team has been set up, and a new speechwriter has been hired, campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters in a briefing that included top McCain advisers. The size of the campaign’s media operation has also tripled.
The presumptive nominee now also has a "Victory Chair" in every state in charge of local fundraising. The goal: to convince supporters to contribute as much as $70,000 to his White House run through donations to his campaign, to the national party and to special committees set up to help get out the vote efforts in a handful of key swing states.
McCain’s campaign, which has been outpaced in the fundraising race by both his Democratic opponents, raised $15 million in March and has $10 million in the bank. This week, it reached the 200,000-donor mark.
Davis said new regional campaign managers had joined the staff, and that different plans had been crafted to deal with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton candidacies.
“We have no preference” between the two, said senior strategist Charlie Black. “I'm not sure that one is easier than the other.”
(CNN) - John McCain and wife Cindy do not file joint tax returns, and the campaign said Friday they will not release her 2006 and 2007 tax returns along with the candidate's.
The campaign argues that the two keep their finances separate, and that she has privacy concerns for her kids.
The Obamas and the Clintons both file taxes jointly.
Some of Cindy McCain's financial statements have been released as part of regular Senate disclosures.
The McCain campaign notes John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz, did not release her complete tax returns during the 2004 campaign.
An heiress to her father's stake in Hensley & Co. of Phoenix, Cindy McCain's worth has been estimated to be around $100 million.
(CNN) - John McCain's campaign is seizing on Barack Obama’s comments Tuesday night deriding the public financing system for presidential campaigns. A senior McCain adviser calls it the latest signal that the Democratic candidate may abandon a promise to participate in the system, should he become the Democratic nominee.
“It seems he is taking another step down the path of breaking his promise to the American people,” said McCain adviser Steve Schmidt. “Obama is running an increasingly negative campaign built on a foundation of untruthful attacks and broken promises. That is the type of politics Americans are sick of and John McCain is going to change.”
At a fundraiser Tuesday night, Obama told donors that “we have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it, and they will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally reserved for the wealthy and the powerful."