As I wrote last week, Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s handpicked Senate nominee Cal Cunningham has not only become persona non grata in elite Democratic circles, but he’s also seriously angered the North Carolina political press corps – something almost unheard of for a Democrat in this state to do.
The married father of two and Army Reservist, who apologized earlier this month for an affair he had with the wife of a wounded Army veteran, appears to be trying to ride out the rest of his campaign by dodging the media and not answering questions, instead doing the occasional virtual event or small in-person gathering.
His campaign staffers are picking up most of the slack, including flooding social media with tweets touting Cunningham’s accomplishments and attempting to contrast his record with that of his Republican opponent Sen. Thom Tillis.
But just as Cunningham’s strategy of avoiding the media has backfired spectacularly, so has the strategy of having your staffers do your talking for you, as his campaign manager Devan Barber found out the hard way today.
Barber took to the Twitter machine in the wee hours of the morning to try and get Cunningham’s week started off on the right note. In a tweet, Barber talked of the supposed need to contrast Cunningham’s record with veterans to Tillis’ record. Here’s what she said:
With the #ncsen race now in the final week, voters need to again hear about the contrast between Cal Cunningham and Thom Tillis on veterans. While Cal served and earned a Bronze Star, Tillis voted to take away veterans’ health care and against a pay raise for servicemembers.
— Devan Barber (@devanb) October 26, 2020
Twitter users were quick to shoot down such contrasts by giving Barber and the Cunningham campaign a little reality check on the differences between Cunningham and Tillis on veterans issues:
While Cal Cunningham slept with a wounded service members wife, Senator Thom Tillis literally introduced legislation to expand VA benefits. Or maybe it was when Cal called a lid to avoid questions about sleeping with a wounded service members wife. 🤷🏻♂️https://t.co/gWYZJuRnnc
— Brian M. Johnson MPA (@BrianJohnsonMPA) October 26, 2020
— Pete Kaliner (@PeteKaliner) October 26, 2020
Joked about a service member’s depression while porking his wife. That’s some kinda caring.
— Tom Meade (@tm0029a) October 26, 2020
Cal Cunningham does know about servicing veterans families
— William Foster (@FosterWilliam93) October 26, 2020
It appears that Cal Cunningham chose to commit adultery with an enlisted man’s wife.
This is a violation of multiple Articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Cunningham’s conduct is beneath contempt.#ncsen
— Ricardo Turtleneck (@PintSizePolemic) October 26, 2020
Sen. Tillis’ comms guy Dan Keylin got in on the action, too, dropping this MOAB on Barber’s claims:
FACT CHECK: At the same time Thom Tillis was leading the way on the 3rd straight pay raise for servicemembers, Cal Cunningham was betraying servicemembers by sleeping with the wife of a wounded warrior he personally knew. #ncpol #ncsen #NoHonor #ArmyInvestigation https://t.co/9GSkBhQN6j
— Dan Keylin (@dankeylin) October 26, 2020
As did the NRSC, who reminded Barber and the Cunningham campaign of the ad Tillis is running featuring veterans condemning Cunningham’s conduct:
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) October 26, 2020
Here’s a thought: Instead of Cunningham’s campaign putting their feet in their mouths on veterans issues, maybe have the candidate try being forthright with North Carolina voters (including the tens of thousands of veterans who live here with their families) for a change, by stepping forward and allowing interviews where tough but fair questions are asked and answered about his conduct?
Cunningham has run his entire campaign on the “family man, trust matters in NC, military code of honor” persona. If you base your candidacy on such claims, questions about your faithfulness to your wife and family, as well as your commitment to your military brothers and sisters, are most definitely fair game.