“Bobby Jindal and his political team totally blew it,” harrumphed one advisor for Ken Cuccinelli the morning after a closer-than-expected loss.
Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost last night’s gubernatorial election to Terry McAuliffe, was badly outspent in the days and weeks leading up to the election. The New York Times‘ Jonathan Martin described Cuccinelli’s plight as having been “close to abandoned at the end.” He was. As Politico’s James Hohmann reported, ”The Republican National Committee spent about $3 million on Virginia this year, compared to $9 million in the 2009.” And as the Roanoke Times noted, in 2009, the Chamber of Commerce spent $973,000 on Bob McDonnell, but “[t]his year, the chamber gave Cuccinelli nothing.”
But it was the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) and chairman Bobby Jindal who drew the most ire from a Cuccinelli advisor I spoke to on Wednesday morning — this, despite the fact that the RGA spent millions on the race.
“Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign is over,” said the Cuccinelli advisor. “He screwed this up so bad. And I don’t know why. The campaign knew it was moving numbers over ObamaCare. And the RGA was not very far from that information, they could have obtained it themselves,” the advisor continued. “They should have given the money to the campaign to spend as opposed to running these stupid China ads. They just blew it.”
The Democratic Governor’s Association (which actually spent less on McAuliffe) forwarded most of the money they contributed directly to the campaign. This meant they could focus like a laser beam on their message — for example, attacking Cuccinelli for advocating a “war on women.” (Conversely, the advisor says because Cuccinelli’s team didn’t control all of the RGA’s money, they weren’t able to focus on hitting the ObamaCare issue as part of a closing argument.)
According to a DGA memo (authored by communications director Danny Kanner) released last night: “The DGA contributed a total of $6.5 million to the McAuliffe campaign over the last year, an unprecedented investment for the organization in Virginia. Roughly $6 million of that sum was transferred directly to the campaign, a strategic decision that POLITICO reported was the “most important” of all those made by the extraordinarily coordinated Democratic effort to win the race.”
And the DGA even went out of their way to mock the RGA’s strategy, saying: “The DGA’s wise investments stood in stark contrast to those of the Republican Governors Association. Despite laws in Virginia that allow for unlimited financial contributions and complete coordination between the campaigns and outside groups, the RGA tried to run a different campaign than their own candidate – a puzzling strategy that made both the Cuccinelli campaign and the RGA less effective.”
This complaint was echoed by the Cuccinelli advisor: ”[The RGA's] ads were stupid. Instead of giving the money to the campaign who could spend it on ads, they were running all these ads on China — which did not move the needle. The problem is, it’s too convoluted for TV.”
“We were grossly outspent from DGA to RGA from memorial day to labor day,” the advisor continued, which “is when a tie race became a McAuliffe lead.
“They just took their money and spent it in New Jersey where we took a 17 point win to a 20 point win. They had a system — they had a process — that they thought was better than what Haley did. For some reason, they don’t do that in Jindal land. They run the ads themselves. I don’t know what their strategic thinking is. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” the advisor continued.
Republicans who worry about winning elections might want to take a closer look at the RGA. As the DGA’s memo boasts: “Since 2010, the DGA has won eight of the nine elections in which both organizations have competed. In nearly all of those races, the RGA has either matched or spent more than the DGA. But we spend our dollars more effectively.”
Note: Matt Lewis’ wife previously consulted for Ken Cucccinelli’s state Senate and attorney general campaign.