August 23, 2006


Exclusive: McCain's Web Team. And Nicco Mele. (SHIRA TOEPLITZ and MARC AMBINDER, 8/23/06, Hotline)

Over the past several months, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has quietly recruited for his presidential campaign some of the most influential online strategists in the country, including one of the main architects of Howard Dean's pioneering website.

John Weaver, McCain's chief political strategist, confirmed today that Nicco Mele, the webmaster of Dean for America, is among those who have committed to help. Mele's work on Dean's campaign, which including , led Esquire to name him as one of the country's "best and brightest." His firm, EchoDitto, lists more than twenty major Democratic and liberal firms and candidates as clients. Mele did not respond to an e-mail seeking immediate comment.

Also committing, according to Weaver: Mike Connell of New Media Communications. He designed, developed and managed the Bush campaign's websites in 2000 and 2004.

Max Fose, McCain's webmaster in 2000, is also back on board. And so is GOP technological entrepreneur Becky Donatelli, the CEO of Campaign Solutions. Donatelli helped to coordinate online fundraising for McCain in 2000.

"We're honored such top professionals in this field support a potential McCain candidacy," said Weaver.

The range of experiences brought by these consultants suggests that McCain's web strategy will be integrated with the campaign's message, donation and political operations -- just like Dean's was in the primary, -- and certainly hewing to example set by the Bush campaign in 2004. Bush raised more money from the ‘Net than any candidate in history and campaign used its website to track thousands of volunteers and motivate Bush supporters.

Whatever else you may think of the Senator, you have to admit he's really gone to school on the Bush/Rove campaign strategies and tactics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2006 11:45 PM

I don't see anyone on the horizon that I like better than McCain. I wonder what kind of cabinet and admin he would muster? Any ideas? Name some.

Posted by: Tom Wall at August 24, 2006 12:55 AM

Some random McCain thoughts:

If he wins big (say 40-42 states, including CA), he is going to be sorely tempted to follow Nixon and LBJ into political danger. One of Bush's greatest assets is his humility. McCain seems to have none. He will have to learn to let others get the credit and the photo-ops. No more gangs.

He would be wise to fight the press now rather than in 2008. They will fawn all over themselves to cheerlead for Hillary, Gore, or Edwards, so McCain should just drop his Chris Matthews love-ins now. Nothing will help his standing with 'conservatives' more than using the whip on the press.

If he is the clear favorite, he should run a 'nice' campaign against Giuliani and not go negative (too much) to make Rudy offensive to conservatives. Gore's problems in 2000 started when he went gorilla on Bill Bradley in the primaries.

McCain has to avoid hectoring Congress. If he tries to be a nanny, he will pay for it (like Newt did). And that means working with conservatives, not trying to peel off moderates and choke-hold the Senate with Lindsay Graham, George Voinovich, and the sob sisters. Of course, if the GOP has 56-58 votes after the 2008 election, it may not matter. But he'll have to step back from trying to 'manage' the Hill.

If McCain sticks to the basics (win the war, confirm the judges, cut the taxes, hold the spending), he'll be OK. If he goes off on another CFR crusade, or on some POW human-rights UN love-fest, he will be in trouble.

But, "conservatives" will be looking to attack him anyway, so he might just do whatever the heck comes into his head for 4 years. He might be like a 73 year-old Teddy Roosevelt. OJ would just love that.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 24, 2006 1:53 AM

This little item is just a blip by itself. But coming after his Tuesday remarks hitting Bush over the initial assessment on the Iraq war shows the senator is still in need of a little fine tuning when it comes to smoothing over rough issues with your base.

It's not a deal-breaker by any means, especially with the mid-term elections still 2 1/2 months off, but he did give himself another unnecessary headache with GOP primary voters, many of whom (under the current political set-up) already have McCain one something close to double-secret probation for CFR and his cosy relations with the media (and the clip Rush Limbaugh played of Claire Shipman orgasming over McCain's slap at Bush isn't going to help the situation over the next couple of days).

Posted by: John at August 24, 2006 2:17 AM


To the contrary, the speech the other day tracks perfectly with W's own disavowal of the GOP congress in '99.

Posted by: oj at August 24, 2006 8:22 AM

Frankly, McCain ought to be cozying up to Limbaugh and Hannity as much as possible. After all those two are the main media voice of the GOP base, and McCain does owe the base quite a bit.

Posted by: Brad S at August 24, 2006 8:57 AM

OJ --

Similar, but McCain has more baggage within his own party than even Bush had in 1999. Conservatives may have been mad at dad and suspicious of the son back then, but they were in Year 7 of the Clniton Administration and were more willing to put their differences aside.

For the media, swooning that "The Straight Talk Express may be back," as Ms. Shipman did, means they're still hopeful that McCain will antagonize enough of his own party to split it in 2008 -- ideally for them via a third-party candidacy that would help the Democrats repeat 1992, but they'd even be happy with a McCain GOP nomination that makes enough people stay home to give Hillary or whoever the nominee is enough votes in the swing states to make a difference.

Either one of those secnarios means all the media would have to do is tout McCain's maverick status, stand back and watch the fun. What they don't want is a united Republican Party in 2008 standing completely behind McCain, in which case they would have to directly get out the knives and rocket launchers to use on the Straight Talk Express.

McCain can tease the media with the idea that he's turning wholeheartedly against the administration -- even the last two sitting VPs to run for president distanced themselves from the guys who got them there -- but he's got to walk a fine line between getting the media's hopes up too much for a 2008 GOP bloodbath, and ticking off enough of the hard core primary voters to the point that they take an "Anybody But McCain" attitude, even if they know he's the most likely candidate to win the general election.

Posted by: John at August 24, 2006 9:24 AM

OJ -

I remember Bush's speech in '99, too - but he was trying to let the nation know that he wasn't in thrall to the GOP "dinosaurs" who impeached Clinton. Bush was also telling Trent Lott that he wasn't junior league.

McCain has the opposite problem - he has to keep the 'base' from simply shaking their heads and picking Rudy. So he has to balance pronouncements of 'independence' with solid statements of partisanship (i.e., it wouldn't hurt him at all to disparage a Democrat now and then).

"The Anchoress" had an interesting post on this a couple of days ago - she was sticking with Rudy because he spoke plainly about the most important issue. And because she knows Rudy is imperfect, but is also genuine. A man who needs grace. McCain has supported the war, but has always carved himself room to object at the margin. Eventually, he will be as pretzled as Kerry was (if he keeps trying to stroke the press).

He's the man right now, but org. charts don't win elections. Ask Phil Gramm. McCain has some of the same negatives that he did.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 24, 2006 10:05 AM

Gramm only had one negative--too big a cracker. The only guys who can get to McCain's right have the Gramm prblem--see George Allen.

Posted by: oj at August 24, 2006 10:49 AM

The real danger of a Keating-McCain presidency is that he will be tempted to let the Executive branch run on auto-pilot (read: policy set by the left-leaning permanent bureaucracy) while he spends his time with his old Senate buddies trying to micromanage trivial bills because he doesn't understand that he's no longer part of The Club. And that "executive" means that "straight-talk" may be necessary, but its not sufficient, to get things done. Unlike Clinton, he won't be satisfied with taking credit for what Congress does, but will take every one of their slights personally. After four years of him, St.Hillary could win in a landslide.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 24, 2006 11:33 AM

Jim has a good point. McCain will tie himself into pretzels trying to prevent a revolt from the GOP base while keeping the moderates and MSM on his side. By the end he will sound as logical as Kerry.

Posted by: AWW at August 24, 2006 1:17 PM

Gramm wasn't a cracker - he just looked (and talked) like one. He has a Ph.D., after all, and he knew how to work things in the Senate. He probably would have been a better Majority Leader than Lott.

You're right about Allen - he's the conservative equivalent of a fluff chick (or a Valley Girl).

McCain doesn't have to worry about his 'right' - he just has to worry about THE right deciding not to vote for him. In the end, they probably will, but Rudy's social views aren't going to hurt him as much as you think, because he has an ironclad shield on the war issues. One bad gaffe by Senator Temper, and Rudy will eclipse him. Remember the 'inevitability' of Big Jawn Connally?

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 24, 2006 1:19 PM

You guys are confusing a few activists with the actual base.

Posted by: oj at August 24, 2006 1:20 PM

OJ thinks anyone from the south is a cracker. It's his own particular bigotry.


Posted by: jefferson park at August 24, 2006 1:40 PM


It's not about what you think, but what voters do. Crackerhood gives Democrats cred at the national level but is scary in a Republican.

Posted by: oj at August 24, 2006 1:57 PM

Jim, you're right about Gramm. Both he and Haley Barbour would have been formidable candidates if they would have worked on making themselves more intelligible. Gramm is also so nasal, trying to understand what he's saying takes too much work.

Posted by: erp at August 24, 2006 6:28 PM

Too cracker. But he'd have been a fine president.

Posted by: oj at August 24, 2006 7:28 PM