Sen. John McCain has reportedly chosen the man behind the infamous “bimbo” ad–criticized as race-baiting in the recent Tennessee Senate race–to be his campaign manager if he decides to run for president.

Media outlets including the Washington Post reported that McCain’s exploratory committee planned to announce selection of Terry Nelson to oversee his campaign, if the Arizona Republican decides to officially enter the race after the first of the year.

Nelson, former national political director for President Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, has been working for McCain’s Straight Talk America political action campaign since March.

He worked briefly as a political consultant for Working Families for Wal-Mart, until civil rights leaders including Rep. John Lewis and Jesse Jackson called for him to be fired for his part in the controversial ad that helped defeat black Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr.

The television ad, funded by the National Republican Committee, featured a scantily-clad blonde actress portraying a woman who met Ford at a Playboy party, looking into the camera and whispering, “Harold, call me.”

Critics of the ad said it appealed to prejudices against black men dating white women. Ford, who is African-American, lost 51 percent to 48 percent to a white opponent, former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, in a race for a key seat vacated by retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics called the ad, along with other GOP ads with racial overtones, a resort to the “Southern Strategy” launched by Richard Nixon in 1968 to win electoral votes in Southern states for Republicans with code words like “states’ rights” and “law and order” to appeal to voters opposed to black civil rights.

The anti-Ford ad wasn’t Nelson’s first brush with controversial tactics.

His name was linked to the New Hampshire “phone jamming” scandal, where Republicans hired a telemarketing firm to tamper with the election, in which four men were sentenced to prison. Prosecutors alleged the firm was paid to make repeated hang-up phone calls to prevent Democrats from getting voters to the poll on Election Day 2002.

He was also named but not indicted in a conspiracy-to-violate-campaign-laws case in Texas involving former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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