Saturday morning’s Republican State Central Committee meeting turned out to be an interesting flashpoint in the internecine battle for primary-election superiority between Rep. Bill Cassidy and Col. Rob Maness – with the latter apparently earning the irritation of a goodly number of the state’s GOP activists.
There were two issues which arose out of the Cassidy-Maness election fight at the meeting. First was Maness’ attempt to give a campaign update to the 200 or so activists in attendance – but since Maness gave a speech at the last SCC meeting in the fall, and this meeting was supposed to be Cassidy’s turn, the party elders didn’t permit him to speak beyond just introducing himself to the crowd.
The Colonel wasn’t very happy about that, but it was a rather minor controversy. What came later has developed into something a bit more pointed.
Because Saturday afternoon, Maness’ camp put out a press release castigating Cassidy for the remarks he made – and several attendees at that meeting took issue with his statements. This was the press release…
Congressman Bill Cassidy’s comments at the Republican State Central Committee meeting in Baton Rouge this morning reveal who he puts his faith in, and who he would beholden to if elected — the political establishment, not the people of Louisiana.
At the RSCC quarterly meeting this morning, Cassidy told political representatives from around the state that it is they, not the people of Louisiana, who will decide who our next U.S. Senator will be.
“This is not surprising, but it is disappointing,” said Senate candidate retired Col. Rob Maness (R-Madisonville). “The contrast between Congressman Cassidy and myself couldn’t be clearer: He puts his faith in political machines, while I have my faith in my fellow Louisianans.”
Cassidy also told the RSCC that he doesn’t believe a Republican can win the Senate in a December runoff despite polls showing the contrary.
“Bill Cassidy is a part of the Washington establishment. As a result, he is woefully out of touch with the sentiments of the people of this state who are fed-up with being told by the political establishment who their representatives will be. I’ve traveled over 40,000 miles in our state since I launched my campaign,” Maness said. “The only time I see Congressman Cassidy or hear mention of him is at political establishment events. It is to us – not establishment insiders – that I am taking my message of shrinking government and protecting the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”
Maness said Cassidy’s “we-know-better” attitude that pervades the political class is the same attitude that saddled America with Obamacare, has imposed outrageous infringements on religious liberty, and continues to threaten 2nd Amendment rights.
The release doesn’t have an actual direct quote from Cassidy’s remarks, so it’s hard on its face to come to much of a conclusion whether Maness’ characterization of what the Congressman said is accurate or not.
But there is video of the speech which can give us a decent frame of reference…
There are two elements to this. The first is Maness’ characterization of Cassidy’s statement about who decides the election as evidence of an inside play. That’s a theme of the Maness campaign, and given that his camp wasn’t happy about not getting to speak at the meeting – regardless of the propriety of that or whether Saturday’s event was designated as Cassidy’s turn, etc. – it’s not a shock that he’d say something like that.
But considering Cassidy was speaking in front of a crowd of Republican activists – the kind of people who man phone banks, distribute yard signs, raise money, staff canvass teams and so on – what he’s saying is that if the folks in that room will outwork the Democrats then Mary Landrieu won’t be re-elected. He’s not trying to fix the election in the Republican State Central Committee, and Maness knows that. To play politics with that in order to seek some sort of rhetorical advantage isn’t the worst abuse we’ve ever seen, but it’s not a shining moment either.
And the other element is this business of Cassidy supposedly admitting that he can’t beat Landrieu in a December runoff. That one’s hard to explain away or defend as some sort of spin or misinterpretation. It’s a bit more in-your-face than that, and it’s that characterization which has the GOP leaders we talked to about this kerfuffle Saturday afternoon red-hot.
“That press release was a blatant mischaracterization of Congressman Cassidy’s remarks – full of blatant lies and disputed facts,” said one party official we talked to. “It’s absurd of [Maness’ campaign] to call a group of 200 conservative activists and regular, grassroots folks a ‘political machine.’ How can any credible contender for an office like U.S. Senate allow something like that to be put out under their name?”
Watching the video, though, the outrage is a bit understandable. Cassidy really didn’t say what Maness made him out to say.