Friday, Rob Maness qualified to run for the U.S. Senate against Bill Cassidy, Mary Landrieu and six other candidates for the seat Landrieu currently holds.
Why he did that is something we should question. Because while it’s been obvious for some time that Maness has no road to victory remaining, the circumstances surrounding his qualifying are such that it’s quite apparent he should have packed in his campaign.
There is an FEC filing dated August 15 from the Maness campaign – it’s a 48-hour notice required by the FEC to campaigns at this point in the cycle – which shows the Maness campaign with only $11,000 in the bank. (UPDATE: now that link is apparently down, which is interesting. We’ve asked the FEC to explain).
(ANOTHER UPDATE: We’ve obtained a copy of the report from someone who downloaded it on Friday. View it here.)
Which is an alarmingly small number, considering that the FEC report in question shows Maness’ campaign has a substantially high burn rate and a sizable list of vendors to pay. They’re going to run out of money within a month – or by the end of this month – at the rate they’re going.
Let’s recognize that Maness reported $314,000 in the bank at the end of the 2nd quarter. In the August 2 pre-primary filing the campaign showed $196,000 in the bank. Now it shows $11,000.
No money, no campaign.
The disclosure is bad enough, but the circumstances surrounding Maness’ qualifying last week were worse.
Maness had announced an effort a couple of months ago that as part of his presentation of himself as #OneOfUs, he would qualify by petition rather than paying the fee at the Secretary of State’s office. To do that, a statewide candidate in Louisiana would need 5,000 signatures or more on his petition – and the 5,000 have to be further qualified in that the candidate also needs 1/6th of that number, or 833 signatures, from each of the state’s six congressional districts.
Except on Friday, Maness qualified with a check. He couldn’t get the signatures and in fact the Secretary of State’s office says he barely was able to get half that many. The Maness campaign said they had them but couldn’t get them all certified in time. Believe what you want to believe, but if you’re going to win – or even make the runoff – in a statewide election where 2.9 million registered voters make up the electorate you really ought to be able to find a little over 800 people in each of six congressional districts willing to sign a petition to put you on a ballot.
And you really ought to have more than $11,000 in your coffers two and a half months out from Election Day.
What Maness ought to do is get out of the race. His campaign has run its course and he’s out of money, and for a year’s worth of running for office he can’t even generate enough interest to satisfy a simple ballot petition. There is this fear out there among Cassidy supporters that Maness could siphon away votes from the congressman and allow Landrieu to sneak past the 50 percent mark, but that doesn’t really look like it’s very possible as of right now. Which is not to say that the Senate race won’t go to December; it probably will. But at this point it really doesn’t matter.
Maness doesn’t have anything to show for all that effort and money spent on this Senate race. If he was going to get traction it would have happened by now. But he isn’t. And to keep his race going he’s going to have to rely on large infusions of cash from out-of-state groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund – but SCF’s July 31 filing showed that it was down to about $195,000 in cash in the bank. That isn’t the checkbook by which SCF would fund Maness; they would instead raise money for him. But when they have less than $200,000 in their own account after raising over $2 million this year it’s a good indication they’re mostly done with this cycle.
So now it’s time to evaluate what the purpose of continuing is, and what he can get out of having run this race. Maness’ message, if you strip away all of the Cassidy-is-just-like-Landrieu stuff that nobody seems to have bought, has been relatively sellable conservative fare, and his personal story is a pretty good one. He’s made a positive impression on a number of conservative activists around the state and while he wasn’t able to get endorsements from any elected public officials around the state he has managed to build some relationships that could be productive for him in the future.
In short, Maness could leverage the work he’s put in as a Senate candidate into something he could run for next year. No, he won’t be a Senator and no, he won’t be governor. But there are other races out there. There are state legislative races, including a number of open seats in St. Tammany Parish where he lives. There are some down-ballot statewide races in which the incumbent could be perhaps successfully challenged.
There could be an opportunity for Maness to have a political future in Louisiana.
But carrying on a dead-end campaign, which this increasingly appears to be, is going to kill that future. All Maness is going to do now is irritate people who might support him in the future. He hasn’t supplanted Cassidy and it’s pretty clear he’s not going to.
If he can recognize that, get out and help unify the anti-Landrieu vote he’ll end up a hero – and he might find a lot more support from the folks his supporters have attacked as “establishment” types in the future should he continue to pursue political ambitions.
It’s his call, but reality is descending.