Rob Maness Hopes That College Students Give Him An Edge Over His Rivals

Rob Maness is not as well funded as his main rivals in the race for the open U.S. Senate seat this fall. But he’s hoping to make his way into the runoff by using some “X factors” to expand beyond his Tea Party base.

This writer had lunch on Saturday with Maness campaign manager Andrew Surabian and he asked me what I would interest me. I told him attempts to reach out beyond the traditional Republican electorate in Louisiana.

Last night at Loyola University New Orleans, Maness made his pitch to college students. This writer was in attendance on invitation from the Maness campaign. It was a joint meeting of the Tulane University College Republicans, Loyola University College Republicans, and the Loyola University chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. Maness has already secured the backing of the state YAL chair, Justin Callais, in his personal capacity.

The biggest difference between Rob Maness’s campaign in 2014 and the one this year is Maness’s Tea Party message has a more libertarian flavor to it. Think somewhere between Rand Paul and Mike Lee. This should stand in stark contrast to the other candidate going after Tea Party voters, Congressman John Fleming, whose message is more socially conservative.

Maness opened up his talk by talking about campus carry. Maness, who is a concealed carry holder and carries at his campaign events, decried the state ban on campus carry. He called for a national campus carry bill.

Maness switched over to foreign policy and defense. While he talked about his military service and what he did in the Air Force. He made sure to sound a libertarian-ish tone for his audience. “I hate war” said Maness. Maness also emphasized his opposition to overthrowing dictators. There would later be a very interesting intellectual exchange between Loyola Econonics Professor and Lew contributor Walter Block and Maness on non-interventionism vs realism.

Maness talked about his positions on the Fair Tax, reducing the national debt, repealing the Patriot Act, and support for criminal justice reform. He took questions from the students for about 30 minutes. Questions were not pre-screened and were about everything from climate change to offshore oil royalties.

Did the trip payoff for Maness? His staffers went around the room of about 30 or so and convinced quite a few to sign on and intern for the campaign. That helps the campaign reduce overhead and save on staffing costs. If Maness can activate libertarian-leaning college students across Louisiana, that’s a potentially strong volunteer base.

But Maness should be aware that starting in the fall, he will have competition on college campuses. Congressmen Fleming and Charles Boustany, Treasurer John Kennedy, and the Democrats in the race will be trying to shake the colleges for every single last vote. But if Maness reaps rewards from the risky investment on college campuses, that’s an X-factor that can help him claim one of the two runoff slots.

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