(Chuck Muth) – Sharron Angle fans, STOP READING RIGHT NOW – especially those of you who are in denial and still drinking the Kool-Aid. I guarantee you will NOT like this column.
Everyone else, however, read on.
Like it or not, the election wasn’t stolen by Harry Reid; Sharron simply blew another one. That’s the reality. That’s the truth. And there’s no way to sugarcoat it. ANYbody *should* have been able to defeat Reid this year. Alas, the out-of-state Tea Party Express and Club for Growth helped nominate the only person capable of tanking a sure thing.
A couple disclaimers before we start the autopsy. I was a Sue Lowden supporter in the GOP primary. I thought then, and continue to believe to this day, that Lowden was our best chance to beat Reid in the general election. It was never a question of “Who’s the most conservative?” for me. I thought all the candidates were conservative enough, which meant the bottom line was “Who could win?”
I’ll also note for the record that I donated money to Sharron immediately after she announced that she was jumping into the race and encouraged my readers to do the same. And I donated again to her campaign immediately after she won the nomination on June 8.
In addition, I worked with AmeriPAC on anti-Reid efforts – including a dedicated blog to that objective, DumpHarry.com – throughout the general election and pretty much bit my tongue as the Angle campaign proceeded to shoot itself in the foot almost daily.
Team Angle can try to blame a lot of people for their loss, but they can’t blame me.
Now with all of that out of the way, POLITICO reporter Shira Toeplitz took an in-depth look at the Angle campaign this weekend and described it as “a model of dysfunction.” She might have been understating it.
In charge of the dysfunction was Angle’s out-of-state campaign manager, Terry Campbell, who is described in the story as pretty much a political version of Inspector Clouseau – only in the end, Campbell failed to get his man.
“In the 20 years that I’ve been involved politically, I’ve never had the misfortune of working with such sheer, utter incompetence,” Chris LaCivita, who served as political director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) this fall and worked directly with the Angle campaign, told Toeplitz. “Too much is at stake in these political campaigns – people like Campbell don’t need to be anywhere near them. If they were filming a sequel to the movie ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ Terry Campbell would have a feature role.”
Ouch. And while most of you probably have never heard of Chris LaCivita, the people in Washington who do this sort of thing for a living certainly have. And his reputation is impeccable.
Campbell was further described as “consistently unaware” of the daily goings-on in the campaign, “including the cash-on-hand situation and which advertisements were on the air.” Staffers on the campaign report that Campbell’s voice-mail boxes were always full and he wouldn’t answer emails for days. Not good in this age of 24/7 campaigning.
To give you a further idea of just how clueless and incompetent this guy was, the story notes that Campbell called the NRSC in July “to inquire if it had heard anything about the president coming to the state and attacking Angle – two days after President Barack Obama visited Nevada to campaign for Reid.”
Among the genius ideas Campbell came up with for advertising Angle’s candidacy: “hiring a plane to be called ‘Angle One’ for sky-writing the candidate’s name,” as well as hiring “a digital billboard truck with Angle’s face on it that drove around the tourist-drenched Las Vegas Strip.” POLITICO reports that Campbell referred to the brilliance of the billboard truck idea as a “game changer.”
Apparently Campbell’s “management” was so bad that the professionals brought in to try to save the Angle campaign often made “sure he was out of the room or in another part of the state when they made decisions about advertisements or Angle’s schedule.”
Don’t worry; it gets worse.
Campbell was also reportedly the “ring leader” of a band of volunteers who ran the campaign’s southern Nevada operations who, as I reported over a week ago, “were collectively viewed by the campaign professionals as so incompetent that some on Angle’s staff even referred to them as the ‘Island of Misfit Toys.”
POLITICO also notes that it was Campbell who “initially resisted hiring senior staff after the primary, including a communications director, and insisted on using his own Nevada-based media buyer – arguments that eventually prevented the campaign from going on the air for several weeks following her upset primary win.”
As you’ll recall, Angle jumped out to an 11-point lead in the polls right after winning the primary.
Then Reid went up on the air slamming her just as Campbell and the campaign went “dark.” No Angle interviews other than with some friendly conservative talk show hosts, and no radio or television ads.
This was also the time when “Campbell opted to have elective knee surgery – going off the grid for several weeks except to speak with Angle in the mornings.”
Also in June, “Campbell was advised to start putting between $1 million and $2 million into a ground operation, but according to four operatives who worked with the campaign, a field operation was never put in place through the campaign – it was farmed out to local activists instead. And the campaign never hired a field director or a political director.”
Many folks believe the Angle campaign was actually lost during the first four weeks after the primary win, not the last four weeks of the general election. And for that, it appears Campbell is the one solely responsible.
The story goes on to note that “there was only a single organized coalition, RVers for Angle,” and that “the Las Vegas field office [the aforementioned “Island of Misfit Toys”] closed and the phone banks shut down at an unheard of 5 p.m. on election night – instead of when the polls closed at 7 p.m. – because volunteers told the Angle staffers that they needed to get ready for the victory party.”
So much for “running through the tape.”
And speaking of the end of the campaign, the following may be the most embarrassing, and most telling, episode of all:
“In one occasion that was emblematic of the chaos that marked the fall effort, Campbell nearly scuttled an appearance by Sen. John McCain while the 2008 GOP presidential nominee was midair on the way to an Angle rally at The Orleans Hotel and Casino.
“While McCain was en route to the event, held five days before Election Day, Angle was bombarded with calls from teary tea party activists who begged her not to campaign with the Arizona senator because they contended he was not conservative enough to appear on the same stage with her.
“The source of the emotional appeals from some of Angle’s most loyal followers? Campbell himself did the urging, according to multiple sources with first-hand knowledge of the incident.”
Hold on. Even this gets worse.
“What the (POLITICO) story doesn’t say,” writes Steve Sebelius in his Slash Politics blog, “but what a source confided to me, was that Angle struck a compromise: She would not at any time share the stage with McCain. He’d make his remarks, leave, and then and only then would she appear. After aides said that would be awkward, Angle settled on the final compromise. She’d walk on stage as McCain was leaving. The awkward, half-hug shared by the two went unnoticed by people who attended the event and had no idea of the behind-the-scenes antics.”
Look, I’ve never been a John McCain fan, but even I wouldn’t treat the man like a leper.
Fact remains that Angle already had the conservative vote. Her challenge in the end was to reach out beyond her base and attract moderate Republicans and independents – a problem verified by the fact that while Reid carried about 95 percent of Democrat voters, Angle pulled just 85 percent of Republicans.
What kind of political moron would try to scuttle the appearance of a guy uniquely qualified to appeal to the exact portion of the electorate that Angle needed most?
Now, for those of you who are thinking, “Well, all of this was Campbell’s fault, not Sharron’s,” POLITICO also reports that at least one major donor from the Club for Growth urged Sharron to fire Campbell, but she refused.
And as Sebelius also noted in Slash Politics, “the blame for Angle’s loss of a clearly winnable race rests not only with Reid’s near-flawless campaign, but also with the war inside Angle’s, which pitted professional against committed-but-untrained amateurs. This is the kind of tension only the candidate herself could have quelled, and it appears from several accounts that emerged that she threw her lot in with the amateurs, with painful results on Nov. 2.”
So why continue to expose this “model of dysfunction” for which Sharron Angle was directly and ultimately responsible for?
Because by her own post-election admission, she intends to continue foisting her record of losing races she should have won on Nevada Republicans and the conservative movement here. Indeed, she may well feel “entitled” by virtue of this year’s campaign to the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate to replace John Ensign in 2012. And if she somehow manages to pull it off because people don’t know about how badly she blew this race this year, she’s liable to lose yet another U.S. Senate seat for us.
Conservatives can’t afford to keep losing races just because Sharron Angle can’t or won’t do what she needs to to win them. And hiding that fact or sweeping it under the rug won’t make the problem go away. It’s time for folks to wake up and tell Angle, “No mas.”