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Does Steve Schmidt Have Crazy Cojones?

Since it's the afternoon before a three-day weekend and no one seems inclined to call me back for the magazine story I'm working on, I guess I'll pass the time by indulging in some more semi-informed McCainland blogging. At the end of today's NYT article on the campaign shakeup, there's this interesting tidbit:

Mr. McCain spent Wednesday in Colombia, his second overseas trip in a week, and one that he took despite the urging of Republicans who said he needed to convey his concerns about domestic problems to voters at home.

“Somebody asked, ‘What’s the strategy behind this?’ ” [Charlie] Black said of the foreign travel. “It’s simple. McCain says he wants to go to these places, and we say, of course.”

I gather Black was joking, but I think there's more truth in what he said than he'd like to admit. When I did this McCainland story a few months ago, one of the biggest complaints from McCain supporters about the Davis/Black regime was that it was too deferential to McCain's wishes:

"My criticism of the current operation," says one McCainiac, "is that it's much more inclined to figure out what the senator wants and then organize that, as opposed to doing what's in his best interest to win." This McCainiac cites the use of Joe Lieberman, who often served as McCain's travel companion rather than as a surrogate: "McCain likes to have some people with him, but it didn't make sense to have Lieberman with him. You could have had twice the benefit if Lieberman went someplace else. But John didn't feel that way." Complains one Republican leader: "There's got to be someone or some people around with the kind of crazy cojones or attitude to tell the candidate no. Charlie's not going to do it because lobbyists by nature don't do that; they're in the making-friends business. And Mark [Salter] can only do it so much."

Schmidt was obviously a member of McCain's inner circle back when these complaints were being voiced, but I wonder if, in his new elevated position, he'll feel empowered enough to order McCain around rather than accommodate him. One potential sign: McCain's going to spend all of next week doing economy-related events; something tells me he would rather have spent that week down Mexico way.

--Jason Zengerle