CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Republican John McCain said Friday he was to blame for the weakened state of his presidential campaign that has undergone two major staff shake-ups in a week and is nearly broke.
“We’ve made mistakes,” the Arizona senator said during an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio. “The responsibility is mine. I’m the candidate.”
Four days after accepting the resignations of his two top campaign aides, McCain said he didn’t do what was necessary to run a productive campaign and spent just as much as he brought in when he should have been saving up to pay for costly television advertisements for the heat of race.
“We didn’t use the money in the most effective way,” he said.
McCain made the comments in the first-in-the-nation primary state as finger-pointing among his loyalists intensified in Washington over who was to blame for the one-time GOP front-runner’s six-month slide and financially fragile campaign.
The campaign raised $25 million in the first half of the year, but blew through nearly all of it during the same period. By Sunday, the campaign will report to the Federal Election Commission that it has $2 million cash on hand but more than $1 million in outstanding debt, according to officials. They say McCain could end up having as little as a couple hundred thousand dollars to spend as he tries to revitalize his campaign.
As July began, McCain laid off more than half of his staff and cut salaries of many of those remaining staffers to try to control costs. A week later, campaign manager Terry Nelson and chief strategist John Weaver resigned and several other senior aides loyal to the two followed them out the door. More are expected to leave in the coming days.
McCain named the chief executive officer, Rick Davis, as his campaign manager as he seeks to right his deeply troubled campaign.
“It’s difficult times right now,” McCain said but again vowed to press on with his second presidential bid.
Fresh from a visit to Iraq, McCain traveled to New Hampshire to deliver a speech on the war. His 19-year-old son, Jimmy, a Marine expected to head to Iraq soon, was accompanying McCain.
According to speech excerpts, McCain again argues that the country must give President Bush’s troop increase strategy a chance to work, and says the military effort is showing signs of progress and there’s an opening for political progress.
“If there is to be hope of a sustainable end to the violence that so plagues that country, Iraqi political leaders must seize this opportunity. It will not come around again,” he says.
As Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigns in the same state, McCain also singles her out and suggests that she is ignoring a terrorist presence in Iraq.
“Defeatism will not buy peace in our time. It will only lead to more bloodshed – and to more American casualties in the future,” he says. “If we choose to lose in Iraq, our enemies will hit us harder in Afghanistan hoping to erode our political will and encourage calls in Western capitals for withdrawal and accommodation with our enemy there as well.”
He also generally accuses Democratic hopefuls of engaging in “wishful and very dangerous thinking” on the war, saying: “Democratic candidates for president will argue for the course of cutting our losses and withdrawing from the threat in the vain hope it will not follow us here.”