Maness Gets The Senate Conservatives Fund Endorsement…

…which is a mistake on the part of the Senate Conservatives Fund. The release from the Rob Maness campaign:

U.S. Senate candidate Col. Rob Maness today received the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund.

The SCF vets candidates throughout the country – including both incumbents and challengers – and issues endorsements based on a number of criteria, one of which is, “Can the candidate win?”  The backing of SCF is a clear indication that the other Republican candidate in Louisiana’s contest lacks both conservative credentials and support.

“This significant national endorsement is a sign of the continuing momentum started by the people here in Louisiana,” Col. Maness said.. “I am very happy to accept this endorsement and I’m incredibly thankful to the Senate Conservatives Fund and to the diverse Louisianans who supported my campaign in its early days. They made this possible.”

SCF endorsements in 2012 were instrumental in elections of the only three new Republican US Senators – Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Deb Fischer (R-NE), in addition to the elections of Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in 2010. The SCF advocates a reduction in federal spending, the repeal of Obamacare, enforcement of immigration laws, protection of the 2nd Amendment, and an end to corporate bailouts and earmarks, and opposes taxpayer-funded abortion.

“In the five months since we started this campaign, I’ve picked up remarkable support from Louisianans in all walks of life,” Col. Maness said.  “Republicans, conservative Democrats and Independents have all told me they’re ready for Mary Landrieu to go and for a new senator ‘of the people’ who will truly reflect the needs and values of our state.  People of all races, ages, backgrounds and regions of the state have joined our crusade to elect someone who goes to Washington and remembers who they work for — the people of Louisiana.

“For 32 years I served our country in uniform under oath to support and defend our Constitution; in the U.S. Senate I will do the same. Our country is in crisis, with the vast majority of Americans and Louisianans believing we are on the wrong track. Senator Mary Landrieu has been a rubber stamp for Barack Obama’s agenda in the U.S. Senate, and we plan to remind voters of that.

“We will continue to put forth new ideas as to how to fix this country and restore our liberty and freedoms.  I will continue to ask all Louisianans for their votes as I travel the state.  This election is not about Republican or Democrat, party machines or politics – this is about electing someone who will truly represent the interests of the people.”

SCF has done good work. It’s the organization begun by Jim Demint as a balance to Mitch McConnell’s National Republican Senatorial Committee, and it has scored some key wins. SCF played a part in getting Ted Cruz, Deb Fischer and Jeff Flake elected in 2012, and they’re three of the better senators in Washington right now.

SCF has also endorsed three challengers to Republican “establishment” candidates in other states – Chris McDaniel, who is mounting an insurgent challenge to Thad Cochran in Mississippi, Ben Sasse, who’s running against Mike Johanns in Nebraska and Matt Bevin, who is running against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. It’s too soon to know if any of the three have much of a chance to win, but in the case of Sasse and Bevin there are at least some fairly sizable dollars being collected.

With Maness?

It’s tough to see this as much of a difference-maker. The retired Air Force colonel’s third-quarter campaign report showed only $58,000 collected in the third quarter and $102,000 in the race to date. Worse, he had only $16,000 in his war chest as of Sept. 30.

One doubts SCF is going to set a record in fundraising for Maness. So far, its top-dollar number is $996,000, which it raised and spent on behalf of Don Stemberg last year. Stemberg lost to Fischer in the GOP primary, and SCF ended up funding Fischer’s successful general election win. SCF’s next-best number was the $985,000 it raised and spent for Cruz, who did win.

If SCF were to raise a million bucks for Maness, he’d still have less than a third what Bill Cassidy has in his war chest at present.

And yet yesterday the Maness campaign was throwing rocks at Cassidy from its glass front porch. From a rather toxic press release about how lousy a candidate Cassidy is…

President Ronald Reagan once said conservatives should stand fast on our principles, not capitulate to political expediency. “Raise a banner of bold colors, not pale pastels,” he said.   “Do not compromise our principles in the mistaken belief that we will be rewarded at the ballot box.”

Col. Rob Maness launched his campaign for U.S. Senate six months ago, hoisting the same bold colors he protected and defended in his 32 years in the U.S. Air Force.  A political outsider, he defied the advice that one must be “rich or corrupt” to win elections, and set out to prove that naysayer wrong.  He continues to travel the state, spreading a message of true conservatism and picking up support from citizens and community leaders throughout Louisiana – without moderating, without capitulating, and without compromising his core values.

“Some in the political establishment say Congressman Bill Cassidy is the best suited – and best situated – to defeat incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu,” said James Hartman, Communications Director for Col. Rob Maness for U.S. Senate.  “It hasn’t taken long, though, for Cassidy to be unmasked.  Just take a look at what Louisiana’s pundits, bloggers and citizens are saying in an increasingly loud timpani drumming out the obvious:  Bill Cassidy can’t beat Mary Landrieu.  He can’t even hear the drums, although a growing number of people can.”

What They Are Saying:

Cassidy Campaign Loses Ground

Washington Post: Cassidy #2 Fundraising “Loser” – the only member of Congress (current or former) to make this list: “The Republican congressman raised just under $700,000 during the third quarter, a bit more than half of what Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) brought in. This is one of the GOP’s best pickup opportunities, but Cassidy’s fundraising has been unsteady this year.” click HERE for full story

Scott Wilfong – The Hayride:  Cassidy’s Latest Finance Report Raises Serious Questions: “It’s time for Republicans to have a serious discussion about whether Cassidy should be the party standard bearer. Clearly, Bill Cassidy doesn’t connect with Louisiana conservatives. He has followed the unpopular establishment leadership on every single continuing resolution and every single increase of the debt ceiling.” click HERE for full story

The Hill: Landrieu up 10 points in Louisiana Senate Poll: “Against Cassidy, the likeliest GOP contender to advance in a runoff, Landrieu takes 50 percent support to his 40 percent. The poll indicates Landrieu is drawing strong crossover support, with nearly a quarter of Republicans – 23 percent – backing her against Cassidy”   click HERE for full story.

Reagan also said “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” which is something the Maness campaign apparently isn’t all that familiar with.

And the Hill article about Landrieu’s 10-point lead was a pretty horrendous inclusion, as (1) it references a poll by PPP, which is universally acclaimed as a Democrat push-poll operation (by such right-wing nutjobs as Stu Rothenberg) and hardly something a hard-core conservative like Maness ought to be touting, and (2) it isn’t even the most recent PPP poll on the race – the latest PPP poll, from earlier this month, had Landrieu up just seven points on Cassidy.

But when Cassidy has $3.4 million in the bank and you’ve got $16,000, can you really criticize Cassidy’s fundraising?

Maness’ campaign manager John Kerry officially resigned today. His current staffers are saying ugly things about Kerry now. We don’t want to wade into that mess, but what it shows is that the Maness campaign isn’t in a position to make a great case for itself as a good alternative to Cassidy at this point.

And that broadside against Cassidy won’t help the cause.

There are two major problems with the Maness campaign’s prospects, and those problems aren’t just Maness’ alone – they apply to any Republican who’d choose to get into the race against Landrieu.

First is the fact this is a jungle primary, thanks to a bunch of selfish and mendacious state legislators who dumped the system of party primaries in federal elections back in 2010, and because of that fact it’s extremely difficult for an insurgent candidate of one party to unseat an incumbent of another party. Were this to be a traditional closed party primary, there would be little concern about Maness running against Cassidy. In fact, the more Republicans in the field the better – that competition would produce a battle-tested, tough nominee better prepared to take on Mary Landrieu – and if the primary election were to be held three or four months in advance of the general election there would be ample time for the nominee to rally support among those who voted for candidates who didn’t win, and to rebuild his or her war chest after a vigorous primary race.

We don’t have that. We’re going to have a jungle primary, in which for Maness to win he’d have to burn Cassidy down so as to inch him out of the runoff and get 26 percent of the vote or some similar number, and then he’d have all of five weeks to re-raise money to then turn his guns on Landrieu – who at this point would have $8-10 million in her war chest and the opportunity to echo all the nasty things Cassidy would have already said about Maness in the primary, only with triple or quadruple the media buy with which to say them.

Which brings up the second point, which is that going negative against Cassidy in the primary makes it all the harder for Maness to beat Landrieu. To win the election – and given the circumstances to even make it to the runoff, Maness has to show himself a better advocate for conservatism and a better prosecutor against Landrieu’s record than Cassidy. That’s the only way to attract the number of Cassidy voters he’ll have to pull to his side to get to the runoff. And those Cassidy voters may like him a lot, but if you polled them what you’ll find is the vast majority of them just want to beat Landrieu. They’d vote for almost anybody they really thought could win, and they perceive Cassidy as the best bet to do that. What trashing Cassidy does is put those voters on the defensive, and it puts them in “Shaddap, you’re scaring the fish away!” mode. Which is the exact wrong thing for Maness to be doing.

In a jungle primary, that is. In a party primary, it would be fine.

Trashing Cassidy rather than Landrieu will turn off some percentage of Cassidy voters who will then stay home in the general election should Maness get to the runoff. He’s got to have those people or else he’s exactly the same weak candidate he’s accusing Cassidy of being.

The needle an insurgent Republican running against an incumbent Democrat and an “establishment” (for the purposes of this argument; we’re not sold on this Cassidy-as-RINO narrative Maness has been trying to push) Republican is that his attacks on the incumbent have to be more vigorous, more principled, more reasonable and more appealing than the establishment candidate is producing. That’s the only way to win, short of Cassidy turning into Todd Akin or Clayton Williams at some point in the race. People have to gravitate to that insurgent, and they have to want to vote for him even if they think they’ll ultimately be voting for the boring establishment guy in the runoff.

Taking a big intraparty, 11th-commandment-violating dump on an opponent in the midst of a three-way jungle primary race only makes Maness the bad guy. And a broke bad guy at that, unless SCF is prepared to make it rain on him. Landrieu’s camp can take a vacation for now; she has an unwitting stalking horse – or a Useful Idiot, if you prefer – doing her dirty work for her.

It just doesn’t seem like a well-thought-out move. And it makes for a more difficult effort in getting Landrieu out of the way.

But whatever the outcome of the Cassidy-Maness fight turns out to be, it’s time to get smart and bring back party primaries – for all elections, not just the federal ones – in advance of the 2015 statewide cycle. Our incumbent protection scheme disguised as an election system is doing damage to our politics.

UPDATE: And now we find out this little nugget of information – namely, that SCF is throwing around a number of $800,000 they’ll pump into the race. But none of that will actually go to Maness, we’re told – it’s a third-party spend. And $400,000 of it will go toward boosting Maness’ name recognition, which is good stuff, but the other $400,000 will go into attack ads against Cassidy.

So if messaging like we saw over the weekend turns your stomach, just wait until you start seeing it all over your TV. That 11th commandment is about to get shredded…and in a jungle primary, no less.

And by the way, a retraction: the Nebraska seat Sasse is running in is open. Johanns isn’t running for re-election. We’d forgotten that.

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