It’s optimistic, to say the least. We find these things interesting, though, because it’s usually fun to see glimpses of how the candidates in a big race for Senate or Governor see themselves positioned.
The memo, and then some analysis to follow…
FROM: Matthew Beynon – Communications Director, Fleming for Senate
TO: Interested Parties
DATE: June 1, 2016
RE: State of the Race
As expected, the 2016 race to replace retiring United States Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has drawn a large and diverse group of candidates. The large field of candidates has made the early, organizational stage of the race all the more important to ensure a candidate has the resources, infrastructure, and support necessary as the campaign turns toward the crucial Summer and Fall months.
Thus far, only three campaigns have emerged as serious general election contenders, but as a result of doing the hard, behind-the-scenes work, the Fleming for Senate Campaign is the best positioned to win a statewide Jungle Primary in November and potential December run-off.
At the end of the first quarter of 2016, the Fleming for Senate campaign holds a strong cash-on-hand advantage over its opponents. Thus far, Congressman Fleming (R-LA) has reported over $2.7 million raised and $2.3 million in the bank.
Congressman Fleming’s impressive cash-on-hand figure is $400,000 more than his nearest competitor, Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA), and far exceeds the $698,000 held in the bank by State Treasurer John Kennedy (R-LA). No other candidate in the race has more than $250,000 on hand and, as a result, each will have a very difficult time raising the requisite name identification or putting together the necessary organization to compete in the November Jungle Primary, let alone a potential December run-off.
To put this into perspective, the resources necessary to compete on statewide media (network television, cable television, radio, and digital advertising) will cost a campaign in excess of $2 million between Labor Day and Jungle Primary Election Day. This figure does not take into account other necessary expenditures such as staff, office space, and travel costs. Only three candidates are on track to have the requisite resources to seriously compete during the campaign’s homestretch.
More important than its substantial fundraising advantage, the Fleming for Senate campaign has earned the endorsements of some of the nation’s most prominent conservatives and conservative organizations across the spectrum of the Republican Party.
Congressman Fleming has emerged as the unique candidate who has united the economic, social, and national security legs of the Republican platform. In a year when fissures between each faction of the Party have been on display on the national stage, the Fleming Campaign is the only campaign to coalesce each wing of the Republican Party around his candidacy. No other campaign can boast the roster of supporters of the Fleming Campaign.
Most notably, Congressman Fleming’s campaign has earned the endorsement of the Club for Growth PAC, one of the most active and influential economic conservative organizations each election cycle. Social conservatives, too, have joined the Fleming Campaign with the support of Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council Action PAC, Concerned Women for America PAC, Eagle Forum, and Citizens United. And national conservative leaders, like former Pennsylvania Senator and winner of the 2012 Louisiana Republican Presidential PrimaryRick Santorum, have signed on early to support the Fleming Campaign.
The Fleming Campaign expects to continue announcing prominent endorsements and supporters in the weeks to come. Stay tuned…
Leading, Not Capitulating
While many candidates in the race will talk about their conservative positions, no candidate in the race has the combination of experience and ideology of Congressman Fleming. Fleming has led on issues ranging from repealing Obamacare to the rights of the unborn and defending the state of Israel. Most notably, while running against the establishment has become a calling card of most candidates, it was Congressman Fleming’s leadership as a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus that was responsible for forcing Speaker John Boehner’s resignation. John Fleming has not just talked-the-talk, he has walked-the-walk.
The Fleming Record is a stark contrast to the rest of the Louisiana Senate field, which includes candidates who recently switched political parties or were part of the political establishment that John Fleming has successfully taken on and beaten. Fleming’s record is impeccable, holding an A-rating from the National Rifle Association, 100% National Right to Life rating, 100% Eagle Forum rating, an A+ rating from NumbersUSA, and an 89% rating from Heritage Action – 15% higher than his nearest member of the Louisiana Delegation and 31% higher than his other congressional competitor this November.
The comparison could not be starker. With a 2015 score of 96% from the American Conservative Union, John Fleming has the highest rating in the Louisiana congressional delegation and 33 points higher than his other congressional competitor this November. And unlike his others in the race, Fleming is a lifelong conservative and Republican. Fleming would have never endorsed or voted for John Kerry – for President, Secretary of State, or Nantucket windsurfing champion. The Fleming Campaign looks forward to making this contrast as the campaign progresses.
Experienced Campaign Organization
Fundraising plus influential support and a strong record of accomplishment equals the creation of a superior campaign organization that puts the Fleming Campaign in the pole position headed into the Summer months. Congressman Fleming has put together a strong campaign team with second-to-none experience in the field. Led by John Brabender and the BrabenderCox team, the Fleming Campaign brings experience of statewide success in Louisiana and nationally to the race.
Currently, the Fleming Campaign already employs over a dozen staff and advisors in areas ranging from communications to fields staff and fundraising. In the weeks to come, the Fleming Campaign will be making additional announcements regarding further staff expansion and office openings. These efforts will allow Congressman Fleming to expand his team’s reach throughout Louisiana as voters begin to tune into the race.
First, Fleming’s campaign does have a cash-on-hand advantage over Boustany and Kennedy. Kennedy’s got another arrow in his quiver, though, which is that his PAC is sitting on an additional $2.5 million – so how much of a fundraising advantage Fleming has is at least a little bit of a squishy question. Suffice it to say, though, that he’s correct in that he’s sitting on a very competitive war chest, at least as of the latest disclosure period.
As for the “conservatives coalescing” statement, it makes us cringe a little. Fleming can certainly make the claim that he’s the most plausible conservative in the race; Rob Maness shares his ideology but can’t compete with him money-wise, and he can point to John Kennedy’s past life as a Democrat and Charles Boustany’s alliance with John Boehner as proof that he fits the conservative role in this race best.
The problem is, we don’t have any current polling in the race that shows the people of the state are gravitating to Fleming according to ideology. That’s not to say it won’t happen or even that it isn’t happening now – we just don’t have any evidence it’s the case beyond a fairly logical claim that Fleming’s camp makes that it ought to be happening.
What makes us cringe most of all about that statement, though, is that it’s what Ted Cruz said over and over again during the GOP primary and but for a few brief shining moments it didn’t pan out. We’re not sure Cruz nostalgia is quite the way to get elected in Louisiana, though if Fleming were to be a Cruz clone as Louisiana’s junior senator we’d be perfectly satisfied with that.
The leadership claim, we like better. We’re not sure Fleming has the Puerto Rico issue completely right, but the concerns he raises about opening the door to bailing out failed Democrat-run local, territorial and state governments are valid ones. And his membership in the Freedom Caucus and rock-solid ratings from conservative groups bolster his credibility as the kind of candidate conservatives can vote for.
Finally, every candidate touts the quality of his staff, and Fleming certainly has a bunch of folks in tow who are old hands at running major campaigns. Interestingly, though, he doesn’t have a large number of Louisiana-based people on hand; many of his campaign staff are more national conservative people.
That isn’t a bad thing, per se. Talent is talent, and you don’t particularly have to be born and bred in Louisiana to win campaigns here. It tends to help, of course, but you’re better off with a star from outside the state than a hack who’s local.
What this adds up to is something we’ve noticed, which is that so far Fleming is running as a national conservative, taking bold positions on big issues of national import. For a time, like for example in 2010-12 when Republicans running on national issues against Obama were winning elections in Louisiana at a rate suggesting the Democrat Party was dead and gone as a statewide entity, there was considerable reason to believe that was the way to go. In more recent years, though, we’re not sure – while Bill Cassidy did beat Mary Landrieu running a campaign based on national conservative themes you can’t really say that outside of him the people who have won elections lately have done so as national conservatives. That wasn’t the focus of Garret Graves’ campaign, and though he had a toe in that pool it wasn’t really Ralph Abraham’s focus either. And then there’s the election last fall in which the best example of a national conservative, David Vitter, lost to a Democrat whose slogan was “Louisiana First,” whatever that meant.
It seems Fleming is going to give that positioning another shot, and he might be right to do so. There are plenty of national issues which can be related to Louisiana – involving energy, for example, or immigration, or trade (particularly with Latin America), or taxes. The question is whether he can use that platform effectively against Kennedy.
And it’s too early to know how that will turn out.