The other day a friend sent a post he asked me to put up on why the race is Reed’s. Today, a friend who supports Cagle asks the same and I gladly oblige.
You can read this perspective below the fold.
Unlike the anonymous poster of the memo arguing that Ralph Reed will win, I’ll begin by being honest: I am a Casey Cagle supporter. However, I work in politics and I would not be backing Casey unless I was absolutely certain of a victory. Following are the reasons why Casey Cagle will win this race.
Message: The fact is, Ralph Reed and Casey Cagle have both put forward broad policy proposals. In both campaigns, the message is straightforward mainstream conservative policy that would be right at home on the Heritage Foundation webpage. On policy, the only real difference is that Reed supports a watered-down amnesty program for illegal aliens while Cagle is adamantly opposed to allowing anyone here illegally now to stay. The primary difference is that Casey actually as a record, and it’s as rock-solid, mainstream conservative as they come. People don’t have to wonder how Casey will behave in office, because they already know. Voters can be certain he has the experience to do the job because he is already the second longest serving Republican member of the State Senate. By contrast, Reed has never held any public office before. Georgia voters have stated a clear preference for experienced leadership time and again. With both campaigns staking out conservative policy positions, Cagle’s experience and record give him a solid edge on Reed.
Trust: In elections for executive branch positions, no single trait matters more than trust. Cagle has done nothing to give voters a reason to question his integrity. Reed, on the other hand, made some awful choices in terms of the clients he chose to deal with as a lobbyist. But more importantly, instead of being honest about those choices, Reed compounded the difficult situation in which he found himself immeasurably by refusing to tell the truth. By concocting lie after lie, Reed and his team singlehandedly fueled months of negative press that dogs them today. The Reed team’s first instinct in any situation continues to be to lie, even when it makes virtually no political sense. And, the policy Reed has set of refusing all media interviews and keeping his schedule hidden from the public is doing nothing to make anything better. The bottom line here is that unless Reed can recover some trust among voters – and he’s rapidly losing the time he needs to do that – it won’t matter how hard he hits Cagle because he won’t have the credibility to make the attacks stick. The proof of this reality is that polling shows the race to be neck in neck (InsiderAdvantage, Zogby), even though Cagle currently has half of Reed’s NameID. That situation only becomes more severe as Cagle continues to raise his name idea, and convert positive ID to votes at a rate twice Reed’s.
Electability: A significant section of the GOP electorate places a high priority on winning this election in the fall. Zogby’s polling shows that Reed loses the general against a generic Democrat, while Cagle wins by several points. Activists and donors are already realizing that a vote for Ralph Reed is a vote for the Democrat nominee in the fall. This is causing particularly grassroots actvists to move rapidly to Cagle.
Building the Party: Not only does Reed lose on his own, he also drags down other candidates. The most recent InsiderAdvantage poll shows Reed shaving EIGHT POINTS from Sonny Perdue’s margin, simply by being on the ballot with him. Reed has become a way for Democrats across the country to lower the margins of their Republican opponents. Cagle is a common-sense, mainstream conservative in the tradition of Isakson, Chambliss, and Perdue – who will continue to steadily grow the party. All Ralph Reed does is appeal to an increasingly narrow (+/- 10%) portion of the GOP base. He brings nothing new to the table other than lower numbers for any candidate unfortunate enough to be on the ballot with him. This is already causing Republican operatives from the White House to the State Capitol to begin quietly working to support Cagle. Plus, the Perdue team already hates Reed because he spent his entire tenure at the state GOP screwing them out of support, which is why he was quietly told not to bother running for a second term.
Fundraising: Reed began the race with a wide fundraising advantage. Cagle, however, has steadily closed that gap to the point that it is ceasing to exist. The Cagle campaign continues to hold down expenses, while Reed is being forced to subsidize his failing consulting firm by siphoning off campaign funds. And, because Reed refuses to travel more than an hour without flying, the campaign is incurring huge fees in aircraft rentals. In the most recent fundraising period, Reed was unable to improve his competitive advantage even though he had three months to Cagle’s single day of legal fundraising. Right now, Reed has enough extra money to buy one more week of metro TV than Cagle. However, Reed had only one successful fundraiser last quarter, and has announced none this quarter. Cagle, on the other hand, has already raised an additional $100k and has 10 fundraisers upcoming.
Endorsements: Reed began this race leading everyone to believe he would reel in major endorsements. However, the White House has refused to get involved on his behalf. Further, the President has personally committed to more than one member of the Georgia congressional delegation that he will not allow any member of his staff to become involved with Reed. By contrast, Cagle has far exceeded expectations. The majority of Republicans in both houses of the legislature have endorsed him, as has virtually every sheriff, county commission chairman, and mayor in the top GOP counties. These people bring real grassroots networks to the table, and Cagle will leverage those networks to win.
Grassroots: The Cagle campaign has followed the Johnny Isakson strategy of building a grassroots network built around people who are real community leaders (bank presidents, little league coaches, local officials, church deacons, etc). Reed has relied mostly on picking up super-activists in local GOP party structures with – let’s be honest – a lot of loose screws. These people are not going to help him reach undecided voters; in fact they will most likely scare them off. In any event, Cagle has been surprisingly successful at picking up support from the more level-headed and normal members of the local party structure. And, Reed’s claim that he has recruited 6,000 activists is simply fictitious – just ask the dozens of clients he bilked by claiming to produce crowds that never showed up.
Skill: The Reed campaign’s expertise is centered almost exclusively in one person, and unfortunately for them, that person is the candidate himself. Reed’s campaign manager has never even worked on a statewide race before (much less run one), and is simply not capable of managing the nuts and bolts of an operation that can penetrate 159 counties. His consultant, Tim Phillips, is focused primarily on moving his family to Washington where he has already accepted a position running a national grassroots group. This leaves Reed with no experienced hands on deck, and as he should know – it is impossible for the candidate to do his job and simultaneously deliver the perspective and judgment it takes to consult effectively. Cagle, on the other hand, has three staff members with statewide wins under their belts in the last cycle. His media consultant produced spots that won for Price, Gingrey, Westmoreland and numerous others. And, Cagle’s pollster consults for GOP candidates at the top of the pile, including Governor Schwarzenegger. The core difference here is that Cagle has enough sense to hire smart people and listen to them, while Ralph’s ego won’t allow him to believe he needs advice from anyone.
Cohesiveness: Cagle’s team is absolutely committed to winning this race because they understand Ralph Reed is a vindictive operative, and they really believe in their candidate. Of any campaign I’ve ever been exposed to, the cohesiveness – and lack of backstabbing – on Cagle’s team is just impressive. It comes from starting out as the underdog and having to fight hard for everything they’ve gotten. Reed’s folks, on the other hand, realize their candidate won’t remember their names after the race is over. They are demoralized, tired of getting hit, and playing to save face. The race they expected to be a coronation has turned into a dogfight, and they don’t have the dedication, work ethic, or experience to win it.
For these reasons, Cagle will continue doing exactly what he has been doing – beating expectations and winning this race. Ralph Reed had his day, and that day is over.