Former Louisiana state representative and Family Research Council head Tony Perkins recently said that TEA Party-aligned candidate for US Senate Rob Maness had the best chance of defeating Mary Landrieu.
Perkins cited internal poll numbers that one would think the Maness campaign would want to broadcast across the state and an “enthusiasm gap” with Cassidy voters as the basis of his assessment.
My only response to that is to ask what planet Perkins is living on.
It’s one thing to be for someone because you believe in their message or their character or just harboring a strong dislike of the alternatives but to make that kind of a statement tends to erode the credibility of national figure’s political acumen.
It would be one thing if Maness and US Representative Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge were running neck-and-neck despite the latter’s enormous fundraising and cash on hand advantage. But not only is that not the case now, it has never been the case.
The latest poll on the race by CNN has Landrieu at 43%, Cassidy at 40% and Maness at 9%. If you were to review most of the polling data on this race, you will see that Maness has hovered about that number throughout the campaign, surging to 12% in a PPP poll. PPP is a Democratic oriented firm that has a habit of providing “helpful” data for conservative outlier candidates.
Back in August there was a slight kerfuffle when it was initially reported that Maness only had $11,000 on hand though his campaign quickly countered that they had almost 20 times more than that (about $190,000). Cassidy reported over $5,000,000, slightly more than the Democratic incumbent.
But beyond the very real and significant campaign warchest and polling data gaps between Cassidy and Maness, two words alone sink any claim by Perkins or any other political figure who should know better about the superiority of Maness’s candidacy: flood insurance.
Congressman Cassidy got through an amendment to a federal flood insurance bill that capped flood insurance premium increases and reinstated the grandfathered flood insurance rates. It’s not often any politician could rightfully take a degree of credit on a policy enactment that helped thousands of people remain in their homes while also keeping south Louisiana property values from nose-diving and Cassidy’s association with the national flood insurance policy correction has helped his candidacy.
Contrasting with Cassidy’s record on such an important matter, Maness stated position on federally subsidized flood insurance is as follows: he is against it yet at the same time would have voted for the same legislation that Cassidy and other members of the Louisiana congressional delegation (including Senator Landrieu) helped get through.
I’ll resist the temptation to invoke the name of America’s current awful Secretary of State and what he was for before he was against.
An implausible Maness-Landrieu runoff would be manna from heaven for Mary, with her campaign making Maness’s flood insurance position the defining issue in the contest the way Landrieu’s operatives deftly made Louisiana sugar the defining issue of the 2002 US Senate runoff against Suzie Terrell based off a train of logic with more links than a game of 7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Now forget for a moment the part where Maness said he would have voted for the bill, especially since Landrieu’s paid media would, as he would be hanged on his opposition to federal flood insurance in principle.
Cue the black and white film footage of sullen eyed elderly people staring into the camera with a flood insurance bill the size of a Publishers’ Clearing House check and images of a deserted Detroit neighborhood with “Belle Chasse after Rob Maness” superimposed on the television screen.
There’s not a mansion visual, a keg stand assist or a trip on the Concorde that could counter that. Landrieu could show up to the debates dressed as a Pan Am flight attendant and it wouldn’t matter.
Though not a threat to make a runoff, Maness’s candidacy is the difference between settling the US Senate contest in November instead of December.
Maness has a small but devoted constituency that sincerely believes he would be the best person to represent Louisiana in the US Senate and he’s not dropping out and the GOP should make peace with that reality and work around it.
The only path for Maness appearance in a runoff is over Cassidy’s cold political corpse, but after a year of trying and failing to pole vault over the gastroenterologist for the past year the retired Air Force colonel has to make a decision. Will he recognize the inevitability of his third-place finish and spend the last weeks playing wingman for his fellow Republican? Or will he continue to hope that the long-awaited 20-point surge is just another attack ad around the corner and thus discredit the grassroots movement he represents by being the latest TEA Party kamikaze candidate?