The Other McCain

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Ellen Carmichael Out, J.D. Gordon In as Cain Campaign Communications Chief

Posted on | October 1, 2011 | 27 Comments

UPDATE (Oct. 6): “Storm Center: J.D. Gordon Takes Charge as Herman Cain Communications Director

** PREVIOUSLY (6:36 p.m. ET, Oct. 1) **

I knew this last night but was sworn to secrecy, as it wasn’t supposed to be announced until Monday: Ellen Carmichael is leaving Herman Cain’s campaign as communications director. She will be replaced by a former Defense Department public affairs officer, J.D. Gordon.

CNN got the scoop today, because I don’t burn my sources. I’d rather get scooped than betray a confidence.

UPDATE: Shannon Travis of CNN is a friend of Ellen’s, as are a couple of other reporters who, like me, must be kicking themselves for not reporting the story yesterday when they had the chance. Travis’s story has most of what Ellen was willing to tell me — as one friend to another — last night. But the part about J.D. Gordon (and some other relevant info) I’ll have to get in the next update.

UPDATE II: First things first, according to the Cain campaign’s second-quarter FEC report, Ellen Carmichael was paid $22,628.49 for the three months ending June 30. Do the math, and that’s about $90,000 a year. (UPDATE: This estimate is wrong; see third update below.) It’s damn good money for someone just out of college and (not to put too fine a point on it) more than I’ve ever earned in any of my 25 years as a journalist. However . . .

The campaign hired on New Media director Michael Johnson, who was paid $21,674.70 during the second quarter — nearly equal to what they paid Carmichael, who has worked for Cain nearly a year. You can go down the list of other Cain staff salaries and ask yourself whether the Director of Communications was paid what such an important job title would suggest, relative to other members of the staff.

This is not to say that Carmichael quit over money, however. She didn’t even mention that in her conversation with me. I just happened to notice it today while I was reporting on Cain’s third-quarter fundraising.

However, the news that the campaign had hired Gordon to be Carmichael’s boss — dude, think about that. And I’m guessing Gordon’s salary will be more than $90,000 a year. IYKWIMAITYD.

UPDATE III: I’m told that some people are trying to claim Ellen was fired or “let go,” which is false. And I’m also told that my estimate of Carmichael’s salary is wrong. The figure reported on the second-quarter FEC report was actually retroactive until January, so that her annualized salary was closer to $45,000.

Having first met Herman Cain when I interviewed him in 2007, and being one of the first to cover his campaign in December, I know a lot more about what’s gone on with the “Cain Train” than I can report. Because (a) I don’t burn my sources, and (b) there’s a much greater chance of Herman Cain becoming president than most pundits and “experts” are able to see or willing to admit.

It’s important to say that Ellen Carmichael is leaving the Cain campaign on amicable terms and is still an admirer of Herman Cain. This was also true, however, of several people in Iowa to whom I spoke when I spent the entire Fourth of July weekend getting the backstory on a round of staff resignations in late June:

Charlie Gruschow called Tuesday, eager to clarify the terms of his departure from the staff of Herman Cain’s Republican presidential campaign in Iowa. “I have tremendous respect for Herman Cain,” said Gruschow, founder of the Des Moines Tea Party and one of the earliest backers of the Atlanta businessman’s effort in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Gruschow re-affirmed his support for Cain’s candidacy but resigned his staff position because, as he says he told the campaign’s chief of staff Mark Block in a meeting last week, “my heart’s not in this anymore.”
By “this,” Gruschow meant the day-to-day business of campaign operations, which have been hampered in Iowa by conflicts involving some former Cain staffers. . . .

And who was quoted in that story?

Cain’s spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael called the personnel changes “growing pains” in a campaign that went from its official launch May 21 to a second-quarter fundraising total of nearly $2.5 million (and third place in the Des Moines Register poll) in less than two months.

You can read the whole thing. When she gave me the “growing pains” line, I told her, “Don’t spin me, Ellen,” but she was swearing on a stack of Bibles that this was just a minor speed-bump on the road to victory. And she assures me now that she still has the highest regard for Herman Cain, and the fondest hopes for the campaign’s future success, but felt that it was time for her to pursue other opportunities.

I’ll be back to deal with this story in a little bit, but I’ve got to go get some food right now, because the Alabama game comes on in about a half-hour. Roll Tide!

UPDATE IV: Dan Collins at The Conservatory:

My guess is that as Cain has become a top tier candidate, the pressure on him to get more experienced campaigners has grown. I imagine that at certain points this has meant that Ellen (whom I know only from Twitter) has gotten her toes stepped on, and got them stepped on one times too many. There’s also been the usual backbiting through the usual channels, with people saying that Romney’s campaign is better than he is, Perry’s is as good as he is, and Cain’s is worse than he is. I imagine that kind of back-channel criticism wore her down, too.

Which is a pretty damned good guess, really. This kind of stuff is routine in political campaigns, and the reason you don’t see staff resignations from the Romney campaign is (a) his people have been with him for years, and (b) Romney’s got more money than God, so if somebody gets shoved aside, they’re kept on the payroll anyway.

Ali Akbar at Tea Party Brew has an interesting story, making reference to “underlying tensions.” True enough, but has there ever been a presidential campaign that didn’t have “underlying tensions”? BTW, it was a phone call from Ali that informed me that CNN had broken the story that I’d been sitting on for about 18 hours.

Don Surber points out Gordon’s background:

Gordon is a big snag for Team Cain as he has been a contributing columnist and commentator to Fox News, The Washington Times, Human Events and Capital Insider. Since leaving the Pentagon, Gordon has been a Senior Fellow and Communications Consultant to several Washington-DC based think tanks, including Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Americas Forum, Atlantic Bridge, Center for Security Policy and the Liberty & Freedom Foundation.

Surber throws a couple of shots at Ellen, which is rather unfair. She joined Team Cain early last fall when the candidate was “Herman Who?” She leaves with the candidate now ranked third and poised the challenge the front-runners. Ain’t no shame in her game.

Speaking of the game: Florida scored first to take a 7-0 lead over Alabama. But the Tide just got a first down at the Florida 14. Roll Tide!

UPDATE V: The Examiner‘s Jonathan Gerhke tries to suggest that the Cain campaign is “fractured,” which is no more true today than it was a month ago or three months ago. Go back to something Cain told me in December: “”We are going to run a bottoms-up, outside-the-box campaign.”

The outside-the-box quality of the Cain campaign has manifested itself, at times, as missed opportunities due to inexperienced staff. In August, David Drucker of National Journal wrote an article about Cain’s staff that ended with a quote from an anonymous GOP operative: “Why run a campaign with amateurs?”

Good point, but then when Cain brings a pro like Gordon, this is portrayed as bad news for Cain. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

But let me remind you of something: The experts counted Cain out before he ever started. When he won the South Carolina debate, the experts said it was a fluke. After he placed fourth at Ames, the experts figured he was doomed. And as recently as Sept. 21, none of the experts gave Cain a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Florida straw poll.

The experts keep saying Cain can’t win and yet, somehow, he keeps proving them wrong. Kind of a pattern there.

Trent Richardson just scored a TD. Bama 10, Florida 10. Roll Tide!

UPDATE VI: Stuff that pisses me off: At 6:23 p.m. ET, I was the first to report that J.D. Gordon would replace Carmichael.

Two hours later — about 8:30 ET — Fox News mentioned Gordon’s hiring at the end of their story. And then when UPI picks it up: “J.D. Gordon will take over as campaign spokesman, Fox News reported.”

See? No respect. Twenty-five years in the business it took me to become the Rodney Dangerfield of American political journalists.

Now in the 2nd quarter, it’s Alabama 24, Florida 10. Roll Tide!

UPDATE VII: University of Alabama alumnus Alex Pappas reports:

Carmichael, a Louisiana native who has a reputation for being well-liked by members of the press, began working for Cain in April of 2010. She also worked for his company, T.H.E. New Voice, and Cain’s exploratory committee before he jumped into the race.
In an email, J.D. Gordon, a foreign policy adviser to Cain who is also now Cain’s chief campaign spokesman, said “Carmichael decided to pursue other opportunities” and that they “appreciate her service to the campaign.”

That Carmichael was “well-liked by members of the press” is true, and the biggest challenge for Gordon will be building relationships with political reporters, none of whom know him from his Pentagon work. Gordon’s reputation in military and foreign policy circles, however, should prove to be a valuable asset for Cain.


27 Responses to “Ellen Carmichael Out, J.D. Gordon In as Cain Campaign Communications Chief”

  1. Cain’s Communications Director Resigns | Tea Party Brew
    October 1st, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

    […] who has been close to the campaign, even assisting the Citizens 4 Cain grassroots group, Robert Stacy McCain has more details and takes a further look into this developing story.ADVERTISEMENTMore on: Ellen Carmichael, Herman Cain, ResignationDiscuss and Debate /**/var […]

  2. alwaysfiredup
    October 1st, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

    Why did CNN choose to spell out “Mister” and not abbreviate “Mr.”?  It looks bizarre.

  3. Beto Ochoa
    October 1st, 2011 @ 11:47 pm

    Perhaps he is sialoquent when speaking?

  4. Cain taps Rumsfeld spokesman « Don Surber
    October 1st, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

    […] But newspaper reporter-turned-blogger Robert Stacy McCain reported: “Ellen Carmichael Out, J.D. Gordon In as Cain Campaign Communications Chief.” […]

  5. Donsurber
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 12:08 am

    My readers may wonder why I link you so often. One this is a fun blog. Two we both bleed printer’s ink. Three your integrity, which showed tonight.

  6. Spartanburg Tea Party » Cain Communications Director Resigns
    October 1st, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

    […] Link to The Other McCain […]

  7. Anonymous
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 12:19 am

    Good for you, Stacy. Never burn a source. You are a reporter with integrity.

    My two favorite teams: The University of Miami Hurricanes and any team playing the Florida Gators.


  8. Anonymous
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 1:26 am

    “Integrity”? Hey, if I started burning sources, I wouldn’t have any sources. The fact that I end up knowing stuff I can never report, that comes with the territory.

     BTW, do you know the REAL reason Bert Lance resigned from the Carter administration? I do. I just can’t tell you.

  9. Robbyahm
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 1:59 am

    ROLL TIDE!!! Floridians, blame the stupid party for your loss tonight…. Its never confortable to have to fire someone or have somebody quit on ya but thats part of life, I do hope Ms. Carmichael will remain on the Cain Train in one form or another.

  10. BradMarston
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 2:03 am

    I have known Stacy for 5 years. He is in every measure of the word a Journalist and not a jWHOREnalist. 

    He called me recently on a story and I told him “You KNOW I can’t tell you.” Loved his response.

    Diyam Braad. Yu know I whon quote’cha. Iyee jus wanna know.

    Works for me.

  11. Lizton
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 2:45 am

    The beginning of the end for Cain.

  12. Anonymous
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 3:35 am

    Hey, Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace are available? They got McCain to the nomination!

  13. Cain Rises at TeaCon 2011: Straw Poll Win, Communications Director Loss, Disagreements With Jack Roeser | Publius Forum
    October 1st, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

    […] But even as Cain was visiting with us at TeaCon, something concerning his campaign was happening elsewhere. News emerged Saturday that Cain's Communications Director has suddenly resigned. […]

  14. Knucklehead
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 4:23 am
  15. CoolChange
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 5:07 am

    Talk is cheap and all politicians are full of crap and so is Herman  Cain after seeing him on Leno.We  need a proven conservative in office.
    Can’t vote Herman Cain, he has no record of voting on governing.

  16. Joe
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 6:40 am

    You are a good egg RSM. 

    BTW, I do not trust over paid campaign workers.  I know it is a hard job and I am not saying they should not be paid, but lots of people do really hard jobs with high stakes for little money (because they are committed to the candidate’s message or the message/mission of the organization). 

  17. Joe
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 6:41 am

    They would be perfect for Huntsman.  Send them right over. 

  18. Adjoran
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 7:26 am

    Whatever the reason was for Lance’s leaving – I thought it had to do with the banking allegations which later came to naught – that was the beginning of the end for Carter.  Lance was the only one in the crowd who had a clue.

  19. Adjoran
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 7:29 am

    Obsess much?

    Your pharmacist must be quite comfortable.

  20. Finrod Felagund
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 8:11 am

    Herman Cain has really arrived, because he has his own set of trolls now.

  21. Anonymous
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    Cain is a master marketer selling himself to the unsuspecting masses looking for an easy answer. His resume is light on experience if you stop to analyze it. Turned around a Burger King divison. There he simply implemented the company business plan, just like the other BK divisons had already done. Godfather’s was done with aggressive downsizing and a slick marketing plan. He’s slick, remember what happened the last time we had a “slick” candidate.

  22. Matthew Newman
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

    Looks like Carmichael’s going to LA’s LG Jay Dardenne for his reelection campaign in 2011. As she’s from Louisiana & Cain’s campaign was pulling in someone new in this department anyway, it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable choice.

  23. Lk39
    October 2nd, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

    Herman Cain will make a great opponent to BO and a great President. If you think Cain is light on experience look no further than BO.

  24. Blogger Buried Alive
    October 3rd, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

    […] that I knew personally. He’s been in touch with that campaign and knows it inside and out. He and Ellen’s friend from the AP both played it straight in not announcing Ellen’s departure from the campaign, though they both had the scoop before […]

  25. Storm Center: J.D. Gordon Takes Charge as Herman Cain Communications Director : The Other McCain
    October 6th, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

    […] director for Herman Cain’s presidential campaign.Saturday, I was the first to report that former Pentagon spokesman J.D. Gordon was taking over as de facto press secretary in the wake of Ellen Carmichael’s resignation. Today, I had my […]

  26. Storm Center: J.D. Gordon Takes Charge as Herman Cain Communications Director | Herman Cain PAC
    October 6th, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    […] I was the first to report that former Pentagon spokesman J.D. Gordon was taking over as de facto press secretary in the wake of Ellen Carmichael’s resignation. Today, I had my first […]

  27. Will Cain Adopt A Victim Strategy Due To New Spox? | Concealed Politics
    October 7th, 2011 @ 12:29 am

    […] know Cain recently changed his team, with a larger roll for J. D. Gordon, after the departure of Ellen Carmichael. Perhaps only ironic […]