McCain loses two top members of formerly stong S.C. campaign

COLUMBIA -- U.S. Sen. John McCain's once-powerful S.C. campaign suffered another setback Monday when his chief spokesman and field director resigned.

It was the latest blow to the Arizona Republican's presidential campaign.

After a disappointing second quarter of fundraising, McCain's national campaign laid off dozens of staffers, and his S.C. operation was reshuffled. His state director took a pay cut and was given a different title, and several top aides voluntarily agreed to keep working for no pay.

Last week, McCain's national campaign manager and a senior adviser left, followed by another half-dozen top aides.

With Monday's departure of spokesman Adam Temple and field director Josh Robinson from his S.C. team, the former front-runner has only six paid staffers in South Carolina, down from a high of about 16 just weeks ago.

The departures weren't limited to South Carolina, either. McCain's top communications team also quit his national campaign Monday.

There was one piece of good news for McCain: He raised more money in South Carolina in the second quarter -- from April 1 to June 30 -- than any other presidential candidate in either major party.

McCain raised more than $170,000 in the second quarter in the Palmetto State, 39 percent more than he raised in the first three months.

Still, the news Monday for McCain's S.C. campaign was negative about departures, not fundraising successes.

Temple, who joined McCain's campaign Feb. 1, said he left respecting "Senator McCain as a genuine American hero."

"I respect the fact that he takes principled stands," Temple said. "But the leadership team I trust and came to work for is no longer the team running this campaign."

Temple was referring to the departure last week of national McCain campaign manager Terry Nelson and adviser John Weaver, in addition to Monday's resignation of McCain communications director Brian Jones, deputy director Danny Diaz and spokesman Matt David.

"I worked with these guys since I got into politics," Temple said, adding he had no immediate job plans.

Robinson echoed Temple.

"I joined the campaign out of respect for Senator McCain and the leadership team in place," Robinson said.

Richard Quinn, McCain's political consultant, said he respected Temple and Robinson's loyalty to the men who hired them.

But, "what it means is we now have more revenue we can put in the war chest," Quinn said.

"The point I'd like to stress is we're very happy with the status of John McCain's campaign in South Carolina," Quinn said. "We have the best organized, most loyal campaign in the state."

McCain raised $11.2 million in the second quarter nationally, after raising more than $14 million in the first. His $26 million total for the first six months of the year was short of what observers expected.

McCain essentially has been running for president since the 2000 campaign, when he lost the GOP nomination to George W. Bush largely because of his failure to win South Carolina.

He has won the endorsement of nearly every major S.C. Republican figure and counts among his Palmetto State finance team many of the people who raised money for Bush in 2000.

Republican political consultant Chip Felkel of Greenville, who is not working for any presidential campaign, said McCain is afflicted by a malaise in which bad news seems to perpetuate itself.

"You've got a situation where donors don't know what to think about what's coming. What's left of your staff doesn't know what's coming next, and your supporters, the ones who have stuck with him or the new ones, are not sure what happens next."

McCain has two choices, Felkel said: Find a way to rebound or quit.

"How do you get people reinvigorated, refocused, re-motivated for a campaign that is clearly not going anywhere fast? That's about an $11.2 million question."