Sarah Palin took the stage with GOP Senate candidate Rob Maness in New Orleans and then appeared with Sean Hannity:
When USAF Col. (ret.) Rob Maness addressed the Red State conference in New Orleans last year, his performance was not ready for prime time. He has clearly improved on that count.
Maness delivered a smooth and impassioned speech Thursday evening at a campaign event his campaign organized apart from but during the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Flanked by his family and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has endorsed Maness, the military man fired up a room of perhaps 150 at the Hilton Hotel.
A stream of warmup speakers hit sometimes odd notes, such as ridiculing the Common Core education initiative as “Commie Corps” and contemptuously dismissing many Republicans in Washington as “big government progressives.”
Such language played well with the Tea Party crowd – Louisiana Tea Party organizations have also backed Maness – but it wasn’t continued in remarks from Palin and Maness.
Instead, those two hit broad notes. The key to Maness’ candidacy, Palin said, was the fact he is not “beholden to any political machine.” That outsider status, she said, meant Maness would be the sort of conservative “reinforcement” senators like Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, need.
Maness blistered “Washington bureaucrats” who usurp state and local authority in everything from the classroom to the ocean. Louisiana fishermen, he said, know better than anyone in Washington how red snapper should be harvested in the Gulf of Mexico.
The polls have consistently shown U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, as the leading Republican challenger seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
Maness and Palin concentrated their fire on Landrieu, pointing out she has voted with President Obama more than 95 percent of the time and that she cast key votes for programs like Obamacare that remain deeply unpopular in Louisiana. Sending Landrieu back to Washington for a fourth term, Maness, said, would only continue the sort of detached, sprawling big-government approach most Louisiana voters abhor.
Some of the warmup speakers did attack Cassidy, however, as a “Republican in name only.” Cassidy, who is scheduled to address the RLC conference on Saturday and whose endorsements from Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry has countered Palin’s for Maness, has worked on the campaign trail to convince voters he is no such thing and that he remains the most viable option by far to defeat Landrieu.
It remains to be seen how far Maness’ candidacy may push Cassidy to the right. To a large extent, of course, that will depend on what traction Maness can get out of what has been probably the most publicized week of his campaign thus far, highlighted by Tea Party appearances around the state and at the RLC conference.
By James Varney – The Times-Picayune – NOLS.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org
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