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McCain cmp hit by double whammy

July 13, 2007|From the Associated Press

DES MOINES — John McCain's campaign is losing two veteran Republican strategists in Iowa and will report a seven-figure debt for the second quarter in a row, back-to-back blows to a presidential bid still reeling from a major staff shake-up this week.

Ed Failor Jr. said Thursday that he and Karen Slifka plan to notify McCain by letter of their decisions to leave. Both are GOP operatives with deep ties in Iowa, which holds the nation's first caucuses, and national politics.

"As much as I like Sen. McCain, it's not a team I'm willing to stay involved with any longer," Failor said.

The campaign also will show about $1 million in debts when it reports its second-quarter finances this weekend, according to a Republican familiar with the campaign's fundraising. The figure is smaller than the $1.8 million in the red that the campaign reported after the first three months of the year. McCain aides would not comment on the campaign's debt.

McCain will return to New Hampshire today to give a speech on Iraq, terrorism and national security. He will propose increasing the ranks of the Army and Marine Corps to 900,000, up roughly 150,000 from planned levels, according to excerpts his campaign released.

McCain (R-Ariz.) also will suggest that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is ignoring a terrorist presence in Iraq and will generally accuse 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."

Once considered the GOP front-runner, McCain's second presidential candidacy has been foundering on all fronts. His support has dropped in national polls, and his top GOP rivals, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney, have easily outdistanced him in fundraising. Over the last week, he has accepted the resignations of two top aides in his national campaign, laid off more than half his staff, narrowed his strategy to three states and disclosed he had only $2 million to spend.

Failor ran the Iowa field operation for President Bush's campaign in 2004, assembling a deep campaign organization that energized social and religious conservatives. Bush narrowly won the state, the first time since 1984 that a Republican had prevailed in Iowa in the general election.

Failor also works for Iowans for Tax Relief, a conservative group that runs the state's largest political action committee.

Slifka came to the McCain campaign from her role as a strategist for the Republican National Committee.

Both had close ties to Terry Nelson, who served as McCain's campaign manager until his departure this week.

In more bad news for McCain, a co-chairman of his Florida campaign -- state Rep. Bob Allen -- was arrested Wednesday after offering to perform oral sex for $20 on an undercover male police officer in Titusville, Fla., authorities said.

Allen, 48, has been charged with solicitation for prostitution, which has a maximum penalty of one year in jail. Brevard County jail officials said Allen posted a $500 bond.

Allen said he was not guilty and vowed to fight the charge, calling his arrest "an ugly and unpleasant situation that has been thrust on me and my family." The lawmaker had sponsored a failed bill that would have tightened the state's prohibition on public sex.

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