William Kristol is looking for John McCain’s savior.
From the gun clubs of Northern Virginia to the sports bars of Capitol Hill — wherever D.C.-area Republicans gather — you hear the question:
“Murphy” is Mike Murphy, the 46-year-old G.O.P. strategist who masterminded John McCain’s 2000 primary race against George Bush, helping McCain come close to pulling off an amazing upset. Murphy was then chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s successful Massachusetts governor run in 2002.
Murphy remained close to both men, and as a result sat out the G.O.P. nominating contest this past year, not wishing to work against either of them. It was widely assumed, though, that if either McCain or Romney won the nomination, the winner would bring Murphy on board for the general election. So far it hasn’t happened. I believe it soon will.
I hasten to disclose that Murphy is a friend. I should also disclose that when I called to say I had heard he might well be signing on with McCain, he went Sergeant Schultz on me, saying nothing.
Perhaps it’s because Michael Murphy knows a stinking corpse of a campaign when he sees it, and trying to revive it will not enhance his stature as a miracle worker. After all, if he’s true to the credo of campaign gurus, the most important outcome of the campaign isn’t that his candidate wins but that he emerges from it with a glowing resume and a higher fee. (What, you thought people got into the campaign strategy business to make the country better? Where have you been?)
Mr. Kristol is confident that Mr. Murphy will join the McCain campaign at some point.
I expect that in the next couple of weeks we’ll learn that Murphy is coming on board as chief strategist, with Schmidt running operations at the headquarters. This would be a structure very much like the Obama campaign, led by the combination of strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe.
With Murphy in charge, McCain will have the campaign team he wants. Then all they’ll have to do is come from behind to win against a superior organization, more money, a gifted candidate and a Democratic-tilting electorate. Oh well: no challenge, no glory.
And if the McCain campaign goes down in flames, then Michael Murphy has the perfect out: he can say that he was brought in too late and that if he’d been in charge of the campaign from the beginning, they’d have won. No skin off his nose, and he still gets to be charming and irreverent on cable TV.
Update: Apparently Michael Murphy is already on board the McCain campaign and producing ads.
(HT to TPM.)