Tonight at Rock 'N' Bowl, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness addressed a few dozen supporters as he trailed in third place in Louisiana's U.S. senate race. As incumbent Mary Landrieu and state Rep. Bill Cassidy face a Dec. 6 runoff, Maness - with about 15 percent of the vote - rallied his supporters to return to the polls next month.
[jump] While Cassidy ultimately received the Republic Party's endorsement, Maness led a grassroots campaign and earned tea party support, setting himself against the candidates with a "one of us, two of them" campaign slogan. Maness galvanized a faithful army of conservative voters in the state with an organized campaign despite coming up short in funding, with nonstop statewide tours (visiting all 64 parishes and putting more than 84,000 miles on his Ford F-150) and big endorsements from national conservative personalities, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
With Cassidy absent from several debates and forums, Maness had an opportunity to appeal to conservative voters with an oratorial style appealing to patriotic and nostalgic themes with a "positive campaign" message sticking with the Constitution and several issues, including tighter border control, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and support for juvenile offenders.
Political analysts anticipated a runoff between the Democratic incumbent and the Republican congressman, but Maness remained a wildcard - and his many supporters are now free to vote again next month. In her address to supporters tonight, Landrieu congratulated Maness on his campaign. "We know how to show up and fight, and we know Louisiana is worth fighting for," she said.
In his speech, Maness quoted Kennedy's call to "ask not what your country can do for you," which he says the candidates have failed to meet.
"No one is answering president Kennedy's challenge," he said. "I needed to take action, so I got in my truck and got back to fighting for our country. ... We may have fallen short tonight, but we shocked the establishment. ... I just heard from congressman Cassidy and Sen. Landrieu, I congratulated them on making it to the runoff, and discussed our mutual love for Louisiana, and they complimented us on the great race that you (supported) with limited resources and a lot of heart. ... It was worth every bone-crushing minute of it.
"We know that it's time for fresh leadership in Washington, and for sure we know it's high time for Mary Landrieu to go."
Maness told his "Team Maness" supporters that, "Our work is not done," and, "On Dec. 6, I'll be right with you."
"We're feeling good," Maness told Gambit as polls began to close. Asked whether the momentum from last week's statewide tour and grassroots support would manifest at the polls, Maness said, "People on the street would stop and tell us, 'We don't need your card, we're voting for you.'"
As early voting numbers rolled in with Maness at 11 percent, a few dozen supporters waved signs for TV cameras and watched TV for election updates to a soundtrack of the venue's zydeco and R&B. Rock 'N' Bowl owner John Blancher talked with Maness supporters while election results rolled in.
"You have something you believe in and you go for it," he said of Maness' campaign.
As Maness hugged and shook hands with supporters after his speech, Aaron Neville's "Louisiana 1927" played several times on the venue's sound system.