November 20, 2015

MEMO: John Bel Edwards’ Behind-The-Scenes Liberal Surrogates

John Bel Edwards rolled out an endorsement from retired Army Lt. General-turned environmental activist Russel Honoré by quietly retweeting a reporter on Thursday evening and sending out an email to his fundraising list. Edwards downplaying – or in some cases outright denying – his close ties to leading liberals has become a distinct pattern as he tries to distance himself from his own party to get elected.

The Advocate reported on this trend:

Edwards has said he has never met Obama. His campaign quietly held a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., recently, but he hasn’t touted the support of big-name national Democrats. Landrieu had Hillary and Bill Clinton stump for her campaign in Louisiana. On the flip side, Vitter has appeared with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and touted the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas.

At the same time, Edwards has been more quietly embraced by many of the state’s Democratic elites: former Gov. Kathleen Blanco; political activist James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign; former Congressman Cleo Fields; and Landrieu, to name a few.

Here’s a look at Edwards’ liberal backers and what they’re doing to help his campaign:

President Obama – While it’s unsurprising that a little-known state representative has “never met” the President of the United States, Edwards sure tried his darndest at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where he joined leading Bayou State Democrats to re-nominate President Obama for a second term. Note that this came after Obama had pushed through policies like the coastal drilling moratorium that Edwards now claims to oppose. Obama is providing perhaps the most valuable service possible to Edwards’ campaign by staying completely silent about the race. 

Former Congressman Cleo Fields – Edwards raised eyebrows last weekend when he denied that scandal-ridden former Fields, who fell from grace when he was caught on camera stuffing $20,000 cash bribe into his pockets, had any role in his campaign. Things got awkward when it came out that Fields had endorsed Edwards in a radio ad paid for and produced by Edwards’ campaign. Fields even cut Edwards a $5,000 check to boot.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu – Mayor Landrieu is perhaps the most egregious example of Edwards’ conniving doubletalk when it comes to his liberal surrogates. Buried in a National Journal report on Thursday was this glimpse into Edwards’ campaign strategy:

[Edwards] also deliberately avoided publicly embracing Mayor Landrieu, the highest-profile Democrat in the state, intent on cultivating an independent, moderate image.

The Landrieus [Edwards chief consultant Mary-Patricia] Wray said, “didn’t want to add to this false narrative that John Bel is some kind of national, liberal candidate. They were cautious not to poison the well, or give anybody the opportunity to use them as evidence that John Bel is somebody that he’s not.

Did Wray not realize she was on the record? Generally campaigns don’t telegraph their disingenuous machinations so openly. Either way, Edwards’ eleventh hour rhetoric is a far cry from headlines like this one from The Times-Picayune following Landrieu’s endorsement of Edwards in early November: “Mitch Landrieu’s endorsement of John Bel Edwards includes keys to New Orleans political machine.”

Retired Gen. Russel Honoré – According to news reports (again, no official announcement from the Edwards campaign) Honore´, who calls his environmentalist movement the “green army” recorded a robocall for Edwards that began hitting voters’ phones Thursday evening. Given Honore´’s public opposition to Louisiana’s oil and gas industry, it’s not surprising that Edwards is trying to keep it quiet given that he cut a widely discredited TV ad that attempted to bolster his credibility with the energy producers that employ tens of thousands of Louisianans.

Edwards is using the cynical political tactic of trying to have his cake and eat it too – leveraging left-wing surrogates to fire up the Democrat Party base behind the scenes while engaging in ludicrous verbal gymnastics with the press and public to maintain plausible deniability.