A bizarre email sent from Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz’s chief of staff, Rachel Magnuson, to Treasurer Rob McCord’s campaign spokesman, Mark Nevins, has been partially published by POLITICO’s Alex Burns.
Magnuson also copied four top DCCC officials on the email, including Executive Director Kelly Ward, Deputy Executive Director Jesse Ferguson, Northeast Political Director Rebecca Pearcey, and Recruitment Director Ian Russell.
Schwartz and McCord are likely primary election opponents in the race to replace Pennsylvania’s wildly unpopular Governor, Tom Corbett.
The first email from Magnuson included the following:
I get that all is fair in love and war, but the more that people keep sharing with me and others how ugly and beneath you your comments are regarding Congresswoman Schwartz, it makes it next to impossible when good friends at the DCCC and others ask for recommendations for vendors to not be open with your comments regarding Congresswoman Schwartz.
The “recommendations for vendors” threat is a reference to Nevins’s consulting firm, which Magnuson was suggesting the DCCC blacklist.
According to POLITICO, Nevins responded by denying that he had made any comments about the 2014 race that he would not “say to you or to Congresswoman Schwartz.”
From Nevins’s response:
Will you please tell me what the hell you are talking about? Seriously. Because that’s one of the most bizarre emails I’ve ever gotten. When I’m asked for thoughts, I tell people that I think it will be a very competitive primary, but that I think we match up well against the congresswoman.
Nevins then explained what he perceived as Schwartz’s vulnerabilities as a challenger to Corbett:
Republicans will use Congresswoman Schwartz’s profile against her in very predictable ways. I think they’ll do to her what they did to Kathy Boockvar last year and Lois Murphy before that. I think Democrats have a great shot to beat Corbett, but I don’t think Congresswoman Schwartz gives us the best chance to do that. And based on the conversations I’ve had with people, I’m not the only one who thinks that way.
Nevins then asked why Magnuson was trying to damage his reputation and hurt his business. He concluded by asking for an apology:
Rachel, we’ve known each other a long time. If you have a problem or a question, pick up the phone and all me. The DCCC has better things to do than get bogged down with emails about the Pennsylvania governor’s race. I told you when we had lunch that I hoped we’d keep an open line of communication. I’m unclear why you chose to take a different, more belligerent approach.
After two more brief emails between the two, the exchange ended without resolution. Not one of the four DCCC officials copied on the email jumped into the fray.
This isn’t a great start for Schwartz’s campaign team.
Already, their campaign is exuding entitlement. That type of mentality rots a campaign from the outset.
For example, take a look at recent Pennsylvania races on the Democratic side; time and again, the strongest candidates at the start of a race lose the Primary because they feel entitled to an easy victory.
In 2010 run for Governor, Auditor General Jack Wagner was riding high after his 2008 election where he earned the most votes of any candidate in Pennsylvania history (3.26 million), including Presidential candidate Barack Obama. Wagner’s campaign underestimated their competition and felt they could rely on Wagner’s status as a record-breaking vote-getter. Dan Onorato ended up beating Wagner handily.
Five-term Republican Senator Arlen Specter thought he could change parties and clear a Democratic primary based on his status as an independent maverick, but he came up just short. More recently, Congressman Jason Altmire’s team took Mark Critz for granted and lost in a Primary comprised of 75% of Altmire’s old district.
Entitlement just kills a campaign.
The fallout doesn’t end at the emails for Team Schwartz.
Making matters worse for her boss, Magnuson dropped the ball again when POLITICO reached her for comment.
“From our perspective it’s a primary, [it] is what it is,” Magnuson wrote in an email to POLITICO.
She dismissed the charge that she had threatened Nevins’s business, chalking it up to political desperation.
“We are beating [McCord] in a head to head by 60 points,” Magnuson said. “It is a silly accusation. If there is tension, it is because they are really struggling with that.”
However, that “60-point lead” isn’t supported by the full results of the poll.
As Alex Burns points out, the 60 point lead is “a reference to a polling memo circulated this week by Schwartz allies, showing that Schwartz would have a 54-point lead over McCord after the pollster read voters a brief positive statement about both candidates.”
But without the pre-packaged positive messaging, that 60-point lead over McCord went down to only 19. And, again without the positive statements, Schwartz was in a statistical tie with former-Congressman Joe Sestak.
All of which adds up to make Magnuson’s comments to POLITICO come off as little more than false bravado.
Congresswoman Schwartz is seen by Democrats as a strong leader and a prolific campaigner, but this misstep by her staff makes her campaign appear fearful of competition.
But here’s the good news for Schwartz:
Even though her chief of staff chalked up an unforced error before the game started, there’s a lot of time left. Schwartz is in the stronger position, and voters don’t pay attention to campaign quibbling.
Democrats should only get concerned if this becomes a recurring theme.