First a quick Separated at Birth (suggested by longtime reader Chuck Isom), featuring…
Attorney General-elect Doug Peterson and former Husker Volleyball Coach Terry Petit!
This morning we were CC’d on an email that Chip Maxwell sent to the local media in response to some radio discussions.
Here is what Chip sent:
I imagine the conversation has moved on, but in case it comes up again, I’m told there was chatter on KFAB blaming me for Lee Terry’s defeat.
If you want to “blame” somebody other than the candidate, it would be Dan Frei. I don’t blame Dan and no one else should. The seat is not anyone’s birthright. But it was Dan who exposed Lee’s vulnerability. The DCCC ignored that race until watching Lee spend nearly a million bucks in the primary to barely beat a guy with little name recognition and money.
Go back at look at the news account immediately after the primary. I wasn’t part of the story. The DCCC got involved, and then I took out a petition, because anyone taking an honest look at the numbers from 2012 and 2014 could see that Lee was on a fatal downward trajectory. He was losing ground among hardcore Republicans, never mind the general voting population.
I stood down and publicly urged people to join me in voting for Lee. I’m sorry he lost because conservatism lost a little more ground to the left in DC, and because in 2016 I would rather have faced incumbent Lee Terry in the primary election than incumbent Brad Ashford in the general election. Republicans who have secretly wished for this result are fools.
Lee used to crush liberal/progressive Democrats like Ashford (White, Thompson, Kiel, Simon, Scott). He didn’t lose because of me or Dan Frei or anyone else. He lost, even in the midst of a regional and national Republican wave of success, because too many members of the conservative majority in our district, conservative Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans and Independents, quit voting for him.
The seat might have been saved if the people complaining now had taken the opportunity after the primary to convince Lee to go out a winner and throw his support to me for the general election in order to rally the conservative majority in our district. That of course did not happen and the conservative majority did not fully engage this year. It will in 2016.
And here is my response to Chip:
I don’t agree that you were to “blame” for Lee’s defeat.
Had you and Dan Frei immediately, after the primary, done some sort of “unity” thing — saying you disagreed, but Lee Terry is the conservative candidate, and everyone should vote for him — it would have gone a long way towards shoring up conservative support. It may have meant fewer protest votes for Steve Laird. It may have meant more of those conservatives who voted for Sasse , Ricketts … and Ashford would have instead voted for Terry.
Instead Frei ditched the unity meeting, and you, Chip, set out to run as a third party candidate. That left conservatives who may have been on the fence about Lee to continue to grouse — and find you and Dan Frei as the outlets for their frustrations.
In the mean time, the Democrats saw your third party challenge and immediately realized the seat was theirs for the taking with a split GOP vote. Sure, eventually you backed off, but arguably too late.
And then Frei makes his half-assed “support” statement a week before the election? Please.
If you and Frei really meant that you wanted Lee to win, you would have immediately supported him after the primary, and nipped any dissent in the bud. Instead you let it grow and grow and fertilized it a little. And then when the house was covered in the vines of dissent, a meager effort was made to trim a few leaves with a rusty pair of clipper.
Look, if it was your goal to help Lee Terry win the race because he had the best chance to keep a conservative in the seat, you failed miserably. Same with Dan Frei.
But I suspect you got what you really wanted — an open GOP primary for 2016.
(And Eric Cantor’s loss in Virginia likely inspired you and others to figure you could wait it out and really take the incumbent down in 2016.)
Now does this mean you, or Dan Frei, are “to blame” for Terry’s loss? I think that may be a stretch.
Terry’s past close races, his dumb statement(s), the Minimum Wage early voters and a non-full Democrat candidate who couldn’t be easily tied to Obama were big, big factors.
But were you a contributing factor?
I get what you, and Frei with his last minute ad, are doing.
You are trying to deflect any blame for the Republican losing in 2014, as you enter the 2016 race.
Good luck with that.
I guess we will see how long the elephant’s memory really is.
**UPDATE at 1:55pm**
We offered Chip the opportunity to respond to our response.
And he took us up on it:
There are local insider Republicans who need scapegoats so they don’t have to own the consequences of their internecine fevers, but my petition adventure was irrelevant to the DCCC. The DCCC was gearing up for a major effort based on the primary result. Such high-level strategic decisions are made by people who don’t even know I exist. National Democrats might have been amused by and welcoming of my petition effort, but they weren’t making 6-figure financial commitments to the Ashford campaign based on my doings. That was in motion before word of my petition became public.
The problem here is that I had the nerve to point out how likely it was that Lee would lose the general election. I said to conservatives: Let’s be honest about this and make a bold move now to change the game in our favor. You and your crowd trashed it. That’s OK. That’s the rough-and-tumble of politics and I accept it. But now you want to come back and hang it on me?! Come on! Man up and admit that you and your crowd own this failure.
As for cultivating dissent and unity rallies and that whole line of speculation, the only place where that kind of stuff happens and matters is this blog and other places where political junkies congregate. Most voters aren’t marinating in the insider debate that happens here. They don’t care about Dan Frei or Chip Maxwell or Leavenworth Street or the DCRP or the state GOP. I don’t think most voters track or care about high-profile endorsements by the OWH or the governor or the mayor.
What happened is that the shutdown-check gaffe got more traction than it should have because there was no robust conservative persona and body of work to hold the conservative majority that carried Lee for 16 years. No endorsement or unity rally or other political theater can make up for it. In the absence of a strong conservative candidate, the gaffe sapped the energy of too many voters who used to vote for Lee – and did vote for Sasse and Ricketts – but couldn’t muster the will to vote for Lee again.
I was going to stay completely out of it. Some pro-lifers urged me to speak up, so I did. Lee sought a meeting and asked to use my statement and I said sure. I went out of my way to tell how I lost an election because conservatives stayed home. You say it was too little, too late. The statement was issued in mid-September. I’m not sure anything issued before Labor Day weekend would have mattered. Actually, I’m not sure my input mattered at any stage for the reasons outlined above.
That reminds me, you apparently were not impressed with Dan Frei’s endorsement ad for Lee. I thought the ad was rousing and strong and classy. The only problem with it was that it reminded us of what might have been. Remember that Lee ran ads making Frei look like a satanic minion of Obama and Pelosi. Give Dan some credit for rising above that.
I don’t mind if people have different opinions or think my views are dumb, but I do bristle at being called a liar. I have the advantage in that I know my own mind and heart. Actually, you know it, too, because I have shared the truth. I’ll do it one more time and then leave it alone.
I wanted Lee to win. I don’t like losing ground to the left. As for my self-interest, it isn’t served by Lee losing. I was convinced that I would beat him in the 2016 primary. I have been laying a foundation for that. Now the primary environment will be unpredictable and some allegiances might shift depending on who runs. More importantly, an incumbent Democrat will be waiting in the general election, with all the local and national advantages that come with incumbency.
This is NOT the environment I wanted, but life doesn’t always follow my script.
I hope you and others take my comments in the upbeat spirit in which they are offered. My goal is to clear the air for a brighter future. There is a conservative majority in our district, but we’ll need all hands on deck in 2016.
And we would just say, go back to our original response.