WASHINGTON -- Lagging in fundraising and under fire for his support of the Iraq war, Sen. John McCain is overhauling his presidential campaign finance operation - including resorting to the big-donor approach to fundraising pioneered by President Bush - and is delaying the official announcement of his candidacy until after he delivers a major speech next week defending the troop escalation in Iraq, his aides said yesterday.
His camp has grown anxious, especially over his fundraising, which is trailing that all of the major Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.
The concern grew after McCain's visit to Iraq over the weekend, when he said conditions there were improving.
McCain's aides said that to deal with his fundraising problems, he would adopt the centerpiece of Bush's fundraising technique, which has been embraced by most major presidential candidates.
That approach calls for creating an honorary campaign designation to reward the campaign's top fundraisers. Bush called his Rangers and Pioneers; McCain will call his the McCain 100's, for supporters who collect $100,000 for the campaign, and the McCain 200's, for those who collect $200,000.
McCain has been closely identified throughout his career as an advocate of curbing the influence of money in politics, notably as the co-sponsor of a landmark bill limiting political contributions. He criticized Bush, when the two were opponents in the 2000 Republican primaries, for what he called overly aggressive fundraising efforts.
McCain has also enlisted two senior advisers and put them in charge of a fundraising effort that campaign aides described as being in disarray and without a particular person in charge.
The advisers are Tom Loeffler, a former Texas congressman who was named the campaign's national campaign finance chairman, and Steve Schmidt, who ran California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign.