Thursday, July 06, 2006

Must See TV: Reed vs. Cagle

Here is Casey Cagle's ad hitting Ralph Reed on the Abramoff scandal.

Here is Reed accusing Cagle of being a successful banker.

Irony: Reed (net worth $4.5 million) is nearly three times richer than Cagle (net worth $1.7 million), yet Reed accuses Cagle of getting rich via shady dealings. As opposed to say, collecting $5 million from an imprisoned casino lobbyist.

Here's a Cagle "fact check" response to the Reed ad.

Why did Ralph attack?

The curious thing about this race: Reed, a former state GOP chairman, has the organization and the name recognition, and should have run away with it. So why, then, did Reed go negative from the start with TV ads attacking Cagle?

Six weeks ago, Cagle's pollster told reporters that their campaign's internal polls showed their guy 6 points ahead of Reed. Tuesday, a Cagle spokesman said their polls now show Cagle as much as 9 points ahead.

Reed's internal polling must have shown something similar. If Reed felt confident he was romping to an easy victory, he never would have launched such a relentlessly negative campaign in a GOP primary, especially because Cagle is supported by three-quarters of the Republican senators -- whom Reed would have to work with if he wins the lieutenant-governor's job.

Polling a down-ticket primary race is tricky. Matt Towery says he's seeing some strange dynamics in his numbers: Very high percentage (41%) of undecided, which probably indicates a low turnout in the July 18 primary. Cagle is strongest with women voters, but women show a lower level of interest in the Republican primary.

Towery says a high turnout -- with lots of women voting Republican -- would mean a win for Casey, while a low turnout would win it for Reed. Therefore, by going on the attack early against Cagle, Reed is purposely trying to drive down turnout in the primary and simultaneously increase Cagle's "negatives," since Reed came into the race with rather high negative ratings.

Fear Factor

After visiting Georgia over the weekend and talking to lots of Republicans down there, I can say this: People are afraid of Ralph Reed. Even staunch Cagle supporters are hesitant to go on the record criticizing Reed directly.

As a former state chairman, Reed is owed favors by lots of Georgia Republican officials. He's got a network of supporters -- he had people at a Cagle event in Henry County I covered -- who keep him informed. So anyone who is too outspoken in opposing Reed might find himself blackballed by Reed loyalists in the party hierarchy next time the local party picks its candidates, etc. And this would be true whether or not Reed wins on July 18.

Reed's tough-guy reputation has, in this sense, put a damper on Republican criticism, making it easier for GOP primary voters to think that the Abramoff allegations are just a liberal smear perpetrated by those lyin' Atlanta newspapers. (Being attacked by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is a sort of backhanded endorsement for any Republican in Georgia.)

A house divided

The contest between Reed and Cagle has deeply divided the Georgia GOP, and the damage will long outlive this campaign, whoever wins. At the 4th of July Cobb County GOP barbecue in Marietta, I saw Republicans walk past Reed as if he were not even there, clearly intending to snub him. And when Cagle got up to speak, the Reed supporters in the crowd -- who probably outnumbered Cagle supporters in attendance -- made a point of loudly talking amongst themselves so that, even with a microphone and P.A., it was hard to hear what Cagle was saying.

Frankly, as soon as I read Matt Continetti's "Money, Mobsters and Murder" in The Weekly Standard in November 2005, I thought that Reed would be forced to quit the race. Given what I know about Christian conservatives in Georgia -- who went all-out in their efforts to defeat a state lottery in the 1990s -- I could not imagine that they would tolerate Reed's shameless sellout to a casino con man like "Indian Jack."

Yet Matt Towery tells me that Reed's support among evangelicals remains strong. Why? Cynicism? Personal loyalty? A lust for political power? If ever liberals needed confirmation that conservative Christians are "poor, undereducated and easily led" (as the Other Paper once described them) Georgia churchgoers giving Reed a free pass on the Abramoff affair might do the trick.

In the balance

It's now 11 days until the July 18 primary, and the contest between Reed and Cagle could go either way. It's like one of those football games that comes down to the two-minute drill, with victory hanging in the balance.

If the election were held tomorrow, I think Reed would win. Cagle's team has done well, but at this point it doesn't look like they've done enough to counter the overall advantages Reed brought to the campaign. Without some kind of a big break -- a surprise endorsement for Cagle, an unexpected blunder by Reed -- it's going to be hard for Cagle to pull off this upset.

Frankly, what Cagle needs is divine intervention. When you've done all you can do, and it's still not enough, the message should be clear: Get down on your knees and get humble before God. If the Cagle campaign doesn't have some prayer circles on their side, they need to get some, and get some quick.

I realize that intercessory prayer is not considered a legitimate political strategy by the punditocracy, but having personally experienced the power of prayer, I am inclined to say the pundits are wrong (as usual).


UPDATES: Linked by Basil's Blog and Peach Pundit.

The comments at Peach Pundit are interesting. Bull Moose contributes an interesting article from National Journal.

Here is Tobin Smith:
The facts are Reed has not been charged with a crime or wrongdoing and he has not been indicted or arrested. Had that occurred Casey would be waltzing to a win.
The reality is Casey gambled on the liberal media doing the job and that his “any body but Ralph” campaign would be enough.
In the end, it is not enough. Maybe enough for a close race, but not enough for the brass ring.
My prediction, Reed 52, Cagle 48.

Gus Boulis is dead. Boulis is dead because he sold his casino business to a partnership headed by Reed's friend Jack Abramoff. The Abramoff partnership falsified documents in order to defraud Boulis, and when Boulis began to complain ... well, Gus Boulis is dead.

Reed can say that he knew nothing of Abramoff's dirty dealing. Reed can say that, when Abramoff enlisted him to lobby to shut down competing casino tribes, he (Reed) had no idea that this was being done on behalf of, and at the expense of, gambling interests. "Plausible deniability," right?

So one of the most prominent Republican advocates of "family values" sold out to a crooked casino lobbyist, and this doesn't bother Tobin Smith in the least. As long as the winner has an "R" beside his name, that's all that matters.