WASHINGTON — While the 2014 U.S. Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu and Congressman Bill Cassidy is considered a “toss-up” by most pundits, the third announced candidate in the race is beginning to demonstrate some fundraising gains.
Political newcomer and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, of Madisonville, jumped into the race in May and, on Monday, reported raising more than $40,000 by the end of June.
That amount pales when compared to the combined $8 million raised by Landrieu, D-La., and Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge. But the fundraising shows that Maness is actively campaigning as a tea party-aligned candidate and intends to be more than just another name on the ballot.
“While we have a long way to go, we are already seeing that the people are fed up with insider politics and hand-picked candidates driven by party machines,” Maness said. “My lifetime of service to the people of the United States in the Air Force and my message of adherence to the Constitution has gained early energy and support from those who matter most — the people.”
By comparison, Landrieu had a $4.86 million war chest through June and Cassidy had about $3.2 million.
Still, some groups — like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the RedState website — have assailed Cassidy and others for not being conservative enough.
The Senate Conservatives Fund leadership has announced it is considering aiding Maness, a Republican.
Maness said Monday that he was invited to speak at the RedState Gathering conference in August in New Orleans with tea party favorites, such as, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with whom Maness is actively attempting to align himself.
“Ted Cruz and (Sen.) Mike Lee (R-Utah) seemed to have everything against them,” Maness said in his announcement. “They lacked early financing and the backing of the Republican Party insiders who wanted to hand-pick a candidate who would represent the Party, not the people. Both of them are now serving in the Senate.”
Others like Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, who could have run to the right of Cassidy, have opted not to enter the race, although some still could run.
G. Pearson Cross, political science department chairman for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said Maness’ fundraising thus far is relatively significant and that he represents the “purist streak” of staunch GOP ideologues.
But Louisiana’s open primary election system, often called a jungle primary, allows Cassidy to avoid going head-to-head with Maness in a closed GOP primary. That closed system is how Cruz and others surged to relevance. As such, Cross said Maness is unlikely to stand much of a chance except to “diminish Cassidy’s chances” if Maness can ultimately win 5 to 7 percent of the total vote.
While some GOP purists may not initially flock to Cassidy, Cross said, many liberals ultimately support Landrieu even though they do not see her as progressive enough. “Pragmatism” may win out for more far-right Republicans eventually opting to back Cassidy, Cross said.
The latest prognostications between Landrieu and Cassidy came on Monday from The New York Times and its “political calculus” writer Nate Silver, who successfully predicted all 50 states last year in President Barack Obama’s reelection victory.
Silver dubbed the Landrieu-Cassidy race as just one of two “50-50” “true toss-up” Senate races next year, along with the re-election campaign of Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. Silver described Cassidy as more conservative than Maness and others will paint him.
“The most likely Republican nominee, (Rep.) Bill Cassidy, has an extremely conservative voting record, while the Democratic incumbent, Mary Landrieu, has a moderate one that could partially offset the state’s strong Republican lean,” Silver wrote. “But Ms. Landrieu will need to maintain her distance from President Obama while at the same time getting a strong turnout in New Orleans, where her bother (sic) Mitch Landrieu is mayor – a difficult balance.”