Elizabeth Dole's most visible senior adviser is resigning at a critical point in her Republican presidential campaign, saying opportunities in the private sector are too good to pass up.
"You get to a point in your career when the prospect of less hours and more money is appealing," communications director Ari Fleischer said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Fleischer is leaving as the former American Red Cross president tries to build momentum from a solid third-place finish in Iowa's straw poll. Her public profile has been surprisingly low since the Aug. 14 event, but she is planning several high-profile appearances this fall.
The departure of the top adviser could fuel speculation about the viability of her candidacy.
Fleischer said he is leaving on good terms.
"I'm going to miss her. I think she's a great lady. I still think she is going to make history," said Fleischer, who broke the news to the candidate over the Labor Day weekend.
"When I talked to Mrs. Dole, we ended up hugging," Fleischer said.
"He's a good man and I'm going to miss him and the campaign is going to miss him," said campaign manager Tom Daffron, who hopes to announce a replacement shortly.
Fleischer has casually discussed private-sector options since June, including the possibility of joining a trade association, a public relations firm or opening his own media consulting company. But he said he didn't want to fully explore those opportunities while on Dole's payroll.
"I knew if I started talking to people it would get out. That's not the way I do business. If I'm going to do something, it's going to be forthright," Fleischer said.
Fleischer, 38, is former communications director of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He joined the Dole campaign in March.
He is the second top aide to leave the campaign. Consultant Kieran Mahoney left in May, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. Officials close to the situation said Mahoney was not satisfied with his role in the campaign.
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