Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox plans to resign as John McCain's state campaign chairman, according to two top Republicans who asked not to be identified because Cox has not yet spoken with McCain in person.
Cox thinks the Arizona senator would make a good president, but his campaign isn't doing what it needs to win Michigan, the two Republicans said Monday. State Republicans are set to choose their presidential favorites in a Jan. 15 primary.
McCain won Michigan's 2000 Republican presidential primary. But polls have shown Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney now are more popular in the state, and Fred Thompson is getting the same amount of support as McCain.
The senator trimmed his national and Michigan operations in April when he ran into financial difficulties. Although he raised nearly $800,000 in the state in the first half of 2007, that was far less than Romney's $1.6 million.
The national McCain campaign has been fighting concerns that it doesn't have the money or the staff to keep the senator in the top tier of GOP candidates.
The defection comes on the eve of a high-profile gathering of about 1,500 Republican activists on Mackinac Island Friday and Saturday. McCain and the other eight GOP presidential candidates plan to speak at the biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, making it a critical place to gather and shore up support.
But some of McCain's backers may be looking to switch to other candidates. The two Republicans who talked about Cox's plan said he doesn't yet know who he might next endorse.
John Smietanka, a Grandville lawyer and co-chairman of Lawyers for McCain in Michigan, said he's still on board with the senator and plans to remain there.
"His candidacy doesn't depend necessarily on who the chair or the co-chair is," Smietanka said. "McCain strikes people at a gut level. ... He comes across as someone they can talk to, who they respect.
"I don't think the changes will make a great deal of difference."