Downer Campaign At It Yet Again

It’s been a busy week for the Hunt Downer campaign.

Downer started the week by stoking a round of controversy among the Tea Party movement, accusing Jeff Landry’s campaign of “buying” the endorsement of one Tea Party group (for $600, no less!). That came after making the laughable accusation that because Landry used his company to process payroll for his campaign staff rather than making employees go through the hassle of “1099’s” like Downer’s campaign does he’s looting his campaign funds. The Downer campaign for Louisiana’s 3rd District congressional GOP primary is now accusing the Landry campaign of faking a poll release in order to squelch the news that first primary 3rd-place finisher Kristian Magar is saying he’ll vote for Downer.

A release from Downer campaign manager Buddy Boe today says the following:

Landry’s New Poll a Fake to Deflect From Devastating Statements of Kristian Magar

SOUTH LOUISIANA – One day after Kristian Magar, former candidate in the Republican Primary for the Third Congressional District of Louisiana, released a statement on his Facebook page that he was not voting for Jeff Landry and provided 10 reasons that included threats and intimidation made by Landry, Jeff Landry sunk to a new low in an attempt to deflect the voters’ attention by having a so-called “independent” poll run the next day by “ElectPoll”, a company created on the day the poll was run.  Landry released the poll the evening after Landry’s hometown newspaper reported Magar’s statement and an interview in which Magar said that Landry “doesn’t have the kind of character that I want representing me and my family”.

ElectPoll did not exist until September 27, 2010, the day the fake “poll” ran.  ElectPoll’s website indicates that their website will not even be operational until October 3rd,, conveniently the day after the election.  Most revealing is that a Google search shows that ElectPoll has not polled any other races and was not mentioned prior to the release of the fake poll this week.  The released information does not reveal any percentage of undecided or “leaning”, and therefore, its veracity can be questioned on that alone.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but we’ll start with the Kristian Magar business.

Magar posted what essentially amounts to a non-endorsement endorsement on his Facebook page, saying that he’s voting for Downer and giving 10 reasons why. Most of those reasons amount to inside baseball, come off as personal beefs he has with Landry or paint Magar as a political naif at best and a whiny baby at worst. The list of reasons he says he’ll vote for Downer despite telling the Daily Iberian he’s not making an endorsement are:

1. Was honest even when we disagreed on some issues.
2. Did not have one of their regional directors stealing my yard signs.
3. Did not have campaign staff members record and plagiarize my speeches.
4. Respected my position and did not have people constantly calling me and trying to pester me into giving them an endorsement.
5. Did not call me after a meeting in Jefferson Parish to tell me that things were about to “Get tough on my family.”
6. Did not have a campaign staffer lie to a Republican Parish Executive Committee and a Tea Party about me.
7. Did not have their friend/supporter post lies and half-truths about my voting record on their blog, even after I offered them evidence to the contrary.
8. Did not call and try to harass any of my supporters demanding to know why they had a Kristian Magar sign in their yard.
9. Did not have mutual “friends” call me up early in the campaign to try and intimidate, and later, entice me to get me out of the race.
10. Did not have someone call me well after the campaign was over and lead me to believe that actions would be taken which could disrupt a family member’s public endeavor.

In other words, Magar thinks Landry was stealing his yard signs and suggested he get out of the race when it was obvious he couldn’t win, and because of that he’s throwing his lot – sorta – in with a guy whose record is at considerable odds with Magar’s campaign platform and who’s running a campaign based on fairly egregiously dishonest personal attacks. It smacks of personal pique on Magar’s part, and frankly it’s none of the general public’s business if Magar and Landry don’t get along. I understand Rudy Giuliani is a flaming jackass to deal with, for example; the guy was a pretty effective mayor of the most important city in the world.

Voters with an understanding of the political process would have an expectation that Landry would do everything he could to enlist Magar’s support before and after the primary. And Magar’s tactical clumsiness here shows why he didn’t make the runoff – something he’s obviously and understandably bitter about. It’s a dumb move to endorse Downer now.

Which is OK, because Magar isn’t making a real endorsement. At least, that’s what he told the New Iberia paper (see the link above):

Magar has offered a “pledge of support” in the primary runoff to retired Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer in his bid against New Iberia lawyer Jeff Landry.

He said the difference between an endorsement and a pledge of support is a matter of semantics and people can call his support for Downer whatever they want to.
 
“I said I wasn’t going to endorse either candidate,” Magar said. “I don’t want to go back on my word on that. But, I feel like I was pushed into a corner on this. I wanted to stay out of it. But, when they kept pressuring me, at a certain point, I said ‘You know what, this guy (Landry) doesn’t have the kind of character that I want representing me and my family.’ ”

That sounds like gobbledygook, and if I was running Downer’s campaign I’d be furious at such a tepid statement of support. If I was running Landry’s campaign and my opponent got an “endorsement” like that I’d be laughing like a hyena.

I won’t criticize Magar’s choice to pull the lever for Downer. If he dislikes Landry The Yard-Sign Thief that much, there’s no requirement to vote for him. I’ll say that politically, backing Downer when his campaign is all but dead is about as dumb a call as Magar can make if he has any ambitions of running for something in the future.

Can we count the ways this was a bad idea, and something a politician savvy enough to merit one of the most important elected jobs in the world would never do?

Well, first, Landry is going to win on Saturday. More on that in a second, but it’s patently obvious Landry has better than 50 percent support in this race. The size of his victory is the only thing in question. So when you back a dead candidate, it degrades the value of your endorsement.

Second, what constituency Magar has left after most of them have made a decision for one candidate or another over the past month won’t be enough to turn the election in any measurable way. Perhaps Electpoll’s 32-point spread won’t hold up, and perhaps some of the other unreleased polling data out there which has Landry (who had just under 50 percent in the Aug. 28 primary to Downer’s 36 percent) ahead by some 20-23 points won’t, either. But anything Landry gets above 56 percent – which at this point looks like a baseline – would indicate that Magar’s endorsement isn’t even worth half his 14-percent share of the primary vote. And an endorsement which costs the endorsee more votes than it earns him, at least on a functional basis, is not an endorsement worth having. So unless Landry ends up winning a close race, Magar will have demonstrated he holds no sway over the Republican vote in the 3rd District. Who’s going to donate money to him for a state rep race next year, for example, under such circumstances?

Third, there were no policy reasons given among Magar’s justifications for voting for Downer, and in his first reason he stipulated that he disagrees with his chosen candidate politically. Like I said above, Magar is free to vote for Downer if his personal problems with Landry dictate such a choice – but if you’re a Magar voter and you decided you didn’t like Downer’s record, when he now comes to you and says “Hey, I’m for Downer,” you’re probably going to feel a little sold-out, no longer associated with Magar and maybe even a little put off by the idea that his personal problems with Landry are your concern. Sure, some of Magar’s supporters may be influenced by his statement – but since it’s not about policy, it’s not persuasive. And if you want to be a politician you’d better be able to relate everything you do publicly to some sort of policy reasoning. 

I could go on.

Magar’s message in the primary was a good one, he seems to be a man of integrity and he represents some of what the constitutional conservative movement the Tea Party embodies is aiming for in its candidates. But this endorsement, such as it is, comes off as nonsense on nearly every level.

And as such, it’s of a piece with the Downer campaign’s modus operandi.

Today’s statement by Downer campaign manager Buddy Boe doesn’t just tout Magar’s quasi-endorsement as “devastating,” it also savages Electpoll, a D.C.-and-New Jersey-based startup polling firm which put out yesterday’s 66-34 Landry wipeout numbers by alleging Landry cooked up the poll and that it was “fake.” Boe called the poll’s release a “new low” by Landry.

Boe might have opted to do a little research before lighting off that charge.

Because Electpoll has nothing at all to do with Landry. The Landry camp had never even heard of Electpoll before yesterday. And now he has Electpoll’s principal, Allen Gannett, using words like “libel” in his comments describing Boe’s release:

Hunt Downer’s statement today is false, libelous, and almost comical. ElectPoll was never contacted, much less hired by the Landry campaign.

ElectPoll is a new polling company launching for the 2010 midterm elections. Like any small business, we must invest in our product. Our poll of the LA-3 race was an investment in our technology and services. We expect to use the accuracy of the results after Saturday’s election as a verification of our methodology. ElectPoll is more than happy to open our call logs to any interested journalist.

Furthermore, Downer points out that the poll did not include an undecided option. This is correct. With the election only a few days out, and with primary voters already having voted in the first primary, there is no need for an undecided option.

The Downer campaign’s attack of a new small business is an affront to all business owners. As a result of Downer’s libelous attacks, we will be launching our website with limited functionality today. We stand by our results, and look forward to seeing them confirmed on Saturday. 

Electpoll’s site is up and can be seen here. A Google search on Gannett reveals that he has a personal web page and runs a 501(c)(3) called FutureCivicLeaders.org, whose board of directors has a decidedly Democrat flavor. It might be less of a stretch to muse whether Electpoll is a Ravi Sangisetty plant than a Landry one, though there’s no evidence whatsoever to indicate that to be the case and I’m not making that assertion.

The point is that Boe’s release today demonstrates once again that it’s amateur hour at Downer campaign headquarters. That money raised from conservative and Republican donors has been wasted in perpetuating such a laughable series of baseless and embarrassing statements disguised as a campaign calls into question the candidate’s judgement – both in allowing his incompetent campaign manager free reign to repeatedly discredit him and in staying in the race when it is obviously hopeless in the first place.

But it might be even worse than that. The rumor mill now says that Downer may be about to endorse Sangisetty, the Democrat, when the Republican primary is over. We got word that Downer was asked to pledge, by at least one Republican Parish Election Committee, to support whichever candidate won the primary in the general election – and he demurred. It’s a standard question asked of candidates by party activists, and Landry repeatedly said he would support the GOP nominee, whoever it might be, through word, deed and coin.

I asked, via Facebook yesterday, what the Downer campaign’s position on the question of endorsements would be, as Republican voters might like to know the answer. Before the question – asked on Downer’s campaign “wall” – was taken down, Boe’s response was as follows:

“No. Hunt is preparing for Election Day and continuing with GOTV efforts across the district.”

That’s not an answer, and it’s troubling. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough what Downer’s plans are. If the rumors are true, and Downer does end up supporting the Democrat – it should be noted that in 2002 the Sangisetty family made three donations to Downer’s 2003 gubernatorial campaign totalling $10,000 – then a lot of Republicans and conservatives, like Magar for example, will have a great deal of egg on their faces. And the gist of Landry’s campaign “attacks” – that Downer is neither a true conservative nor a committed Republican – will be proven true.

I challenge the Downer campaign to either pledge, as Landry has done, to support the Republican nominee in the general election in the likely event that Landry is that nominee, or to declare his intention up front to support Sangisetty. The Republican voters of the 3rd District deserve to know who – and what – is on the ballot on Saturday.

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