Scenes From The Titanic
Politico has a devastating piece up today about the absolute incompetence of the man at the top Sharron Angle’s campaign for Senate:
It’s widely recognized that in the marquee 2010 Senate race, Majority Leader Harry Reid ran a nearly flawless, textbook campaign, an operation so extraordinary that it enabled him to defy an almost certain political death.
It turns out he got some inadvertent inside help. Interviews with Nevada and Washington Republicans familiar with the campaign of Reid’s GOP opponent, Sharron Angle, describe a not-ready-for-prime-time effort that was equally astonishing — a model of dysfunction that was as bad as Reid’s campaign was good.
At the center of it was Terry Campbell, Angle’s closest adviser, who held the title of campaign manager.
“In the 20 years that I’ve been involved politically, I’ve never had the misfortune of working with such sheer, utter incompetence. Too much is at stake in these political campaigns — people like Campbell don’t need to be anywhere near them,” said Chris LaCivita, who served as political director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee this fall and worked directly with the Angle campaign. “If they were filming a sequel to the movie ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ Terry Campbell would have a feature role.”
After capturing the nomination, Campbell was consistently unaware of the daily metrics in the campaign, including the cash-on-hand situation and which advertisements were on the air, according to several Republican operatives who were frequently on conference calls with him.
Every Republican who worked with the campaign and was interviewed for this story recalled how both of Campbell’s voice mail boxes were consistently full and he would often not answer e-mails for days at a time — no matter if he was in his self-described “Command Center” in his Missouri home or on the road with Angle in Nevada.
In one instance of his haphazard engagement, Campbell called the National Republican Senatorial Committee 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 in July, according to the accounts of three GOP operatives familiar with the conversation.
Perhaps the worst instance of just how bad things were inside the Angle campaign, though, came on Election Night:
On election night, the general election campaign ended much the way it started — with tensions between the rival GOP camps. As Campbell stood outside Angle’s hotel room door at The Venetian hotel, the results showed the Republican nominee down by 34,000 votes in Las Vegas’s Clark County and 7,000 votes in Reno’s Washoe County, an impossible deficit to make up in the state’s less populous rural counties.
Nonetheless, Campbell and a cadre of tea party activists cornered her in a suite and tried to persuade her not to concede the race for almost an hour. They said she should demand a recount and charge voter fraud in Clark County.
Echoes of the chant “Don’t concede” were heard from outside the room by other members of Angle’s staff.
David Weigel was at The Venetian that night, and adds this:
I was at the hotel, in the ballroom, and this is exactly what happened. Source inside the Angle camp confirmed that the vote didn’t look good only 45 minutes after all the polls had closed. But an Angle brain trust, which included the black Republican activist Niger Innis — he made his way into the ballroom later — was telling her to stick it out. And on this they were of a mind with the candidate’s volunteers. On election day, I noticed that many of the people entering Angle’s campaign office were asking how they could help watch the polls, not how they could help get out the vote. I absolutely got the sense that Angle supporters had internalized fear of ACORN and other groups they accuse of vote fraud — Nevada in 2008 was one of the big lawsuit sites on this — and believed that her poll lead was real but Democrats would try to steal the election.
It’s been said more than once that the best thing that happened to Harry Reid this year was when Sharron Angle won the Republican nomination. Campbell’s presence, and the odd behavior of Angle’s core group of supporters, is one of the reasons for that.