The writing has been on the wall for a while for the sinking 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), but after a terrible second quarter of fundraising, and a drop into single digits in some polls, the campaign had no choice but to let go of several staffers and cut the pay of senior aides. After he only brought in $13.6 million in the first quarter, McCain cut some consulting positions and set the goal of doing better in the following three months, but instead of improving, the campaign actually did worse. They raised $2.4 million less this quarter. This has lead to the latest round of layoffs where 50-100 staffers were let go. At its peak the campaign had 150 staff members, which was the most in the GOP field, now it may have to operate with a third of that.

It appears that the McCain campaign completely, and inexplicably, misjudged the current political climate. “At one point, we believed that we would raise over $100 million during this calendar year, and we constructed a campaign that was based on that assumption,” McCain campaign manager Terry Nelson said. It is expected that Mitt Romney won’t raise as much as the $20 million he did in the first quarter, but his numbers should be solid. Rudy Giuliani should also see an increase over his first quarter fundraising. However compared to the Democrats, where enthusiasm is much higher for the 2008 election, all the Republicans are struggling to raise money. McCain’s struggles are extraordinary because he was looked upon for the last few years as the likely Republican nominee in 2008.

John McCain’s downfall can be tied to two issues. His support for the troop surge and the broader Bush Iraq war policy, and his support of the universally unpopular immigration reform bill. His support of the immigration reform bill most likely put the final nail in his presidential campaign’s coffin. What I have never been able to figure out is why McCain continued to support Bush and the war long after it had become publicly unpopular.

If he really was serious about being president, he had to understand that as a matter of strategy, supporting the Bush strategy as loudly and publicly as he did was a bad move. I understand McCain’s loyalty to the troops, but by taking this position, he highlighted the issue that the GOP is trying to avoid in 2008. What we are seeing here is the beginning of the terminal stage of a presidential campaign. McCain may struggle through this year, but I’ll bet the campaign is over before March 2008.

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Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

www.411mania.com/politics 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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