I got an e-mail newsletter last night from Marc Holtzman’s gubernatorial campaign, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the timing of it. Take a look:
Poll after poll agrees: our primary opponent has stalled out and consistently fails to pull in over 40 percent of the Republican votes against Ritter!
That same opponent refuses to debate Marc and has resorted to a barrage of negative attacks against Marc in an obvious attempt to restart his own hindered campaign.
Marc continues to be the only candidate for Governor who is talking about the future of our Party and State, and he is continuing to define himself as the only true and authentic Reagan Republican running for Governor.
For those of you who aren’t total political nerds like myself, it may not be immediately obvious why this is so funny. Take a look at this piece from a Denver Post story last week, however, and you’ll start to understand:
Holtzman’s campaign manager, Dick Leggitt, admitted Friday that he lied to a Denver Post reporter in an e-mail by fabricating poll numbers that purportedly showed Holtzman’s name recognition going from “10 percent to 70 percent and his favorables among GOP primary voters are now just slightly less than (U.S. Rep. Bob) Beauprez’s (39 to 42).”
Leggitt also admitted he made up polling results indicating that support for ballot measures Referendums C and D was lagging.
“We didn’t have any polling results,” Leggitt said during the administrative court hearing. “It’s what we in the election business call spin.”
The veteran campaign consultant said he made up the numbers because he thought the reporter was forwarding his e-mails to Holtzman’s Republican opponent Beauprez, and he wanted to send the congressman “a message.”
You see, the e-mail from the Holtzman campaign tells us that poll after poll shows that Marc Holtzman is winning. Of course, whether or not any of those polls actually exist is worth questioning. Did Dick Leggitt, Holtzman’s campaign manager, just make up – excuse me, I mean “spin” – these polls himself, or did he at least go around the office polling the people who work for the campaign?
The bigger story that this fits underneath is a contention, brought by an attorney who is associated with Holtzman’s primary opponent, Bob Beauprez, that Holtzman broke the law by using an issue committee to promote his own candidacy. But whether or not Holtzman gets dinged by this may end up being secondary to the harm that Leggitt caused the campaign with his statement last week.
Campaign operatives rely on a sort of quid-pro-quo relationship with reporters to help get information out about their candidates and about their opponents. Leggitt has probably permanently damaged those relationships in Colorado for this election cycle; his quid (or his quo) is no longer of much value to a reporter who absolutely can’t trust anything he says from here on out. Reporters always have to be careful with what political operatives tell them, but the smart operatives make sure to not cross the line between “spin” and blatant falsehoods – or at least not get caught doing it.
This extends on down throughout the campaign, as you can see by my initial reaction to the e-mail I received from the Holtzman camp. A month ago, my initial reaction to that e-mail would have been, Interesting. I wonder what polls they are talking about. My initial reaction now is, Yeah, right. It’s hard to get that credibility back once it’s gone.