Jeff Landry, attorney general of Louisiana, during a Weaponization of the Federal Government Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, March 30, 2023. The hearing is examining an effort by the Biden administration to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of free speech rights accomplished through government pressure on major social media platforms. Photographer: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg

Exclusive: Inside Jeff Landry’s Victory — How Early Voting, Effective Voter Targeting, and a ‘Terrific Candidate’ Landed GOP Jungle Primary Win

A number of key strategists and advisers involved in Gov.-elect Jeff Landry’s (R-LA) stunning primary victory that won him the governorship outright told Breitbart News the success was fueled by a number of factors headlined by Landry’s strength as a candidate and a very effective voter targeting operation.

Landry, the current attorney general of Louisiana who was a Trump-endorsed candidate, took over 50 percent of support in what is referred to as a “Jungle Primary” wherein a candidate wins elected office outright if they garner over 50 percent of the vote in the primary, avoiding a runoff.

Landry won nearly 52 percent of the vote in a field where 15 candidates drew over 1,000 votes — marking a stunning victory that surprised local and national media alike. As grassroots conservative activist Debbie Dooley pointed out, not one poll showed Landry winning the primary outright, which indicated a subsequent runoff was likely.

Breitbart News caught up with a number of those behind the scenes of the Landry campaign who helped operationalize the governor-elect’s victory, including Christian Ziegler, who oversaw the digital and data targeting aspects of the campaign along with strategist Matthew Palumbo, senior adviser Corey Lewandowski, who managed former President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016, senior adviser and media strategist Jay Connaughton, and strategist Kyle Ruckert.

A wide-ranging group of factors led to the resounding victory, according to the sources, including Landry’s strength as a candidate, embracing early voting, Trump and the state party endorsements paired with a modern approach to targeting voters — especially those who do not typically vote in off-year elections — and reaching single-issue voters who are independents and Democrats.

Ruckert, in a statement to Breitbart News, zoned in on the campaign’s strategy to reach voters not only in the lead-up to election day but in early voting as well.

“With a trending uptick in early voting, our team focused heavily on targeted messaging to Landry ID voters via mail, phones and digital before and during early vote,” Ruckert said. “That effort drove the overall demographics of Landry ID’d and Republican voter participation in a way that set the stage for Election Day success.”

Ziegler, who chairs the Florida Republican Party and worked on the campaign via his company Microtargeted Media, emphasized Landry’s strength as a candidate as well as the team effort that helped operationalize the victory.

“Jeff Landry is a phenomenal leader for the Republican Party. He was one of the best, if not the best, attorneys general in the country,” Ziegler said. “The guy has high energy, a staunch conservative, very involved, and a big supporter of President Trump, and they have a very good relationship. Obviously, President Trump endorsed Jeff Landry, so you couldn’t find a better candidate to run for governor in Louisiana, and he just did such a phenomenal job on the campaign trail.”

Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, walks the floor on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“I’m very fortunate to have been part of the team. I mean, I came in with a team — David Bossie, who was Trump’s deputy campaign manager, and Corey Lewandowski, who was Trump’s campaign manager, and he served as senior adviser to Jeff Landry’s campaign. I came in and ran point on all the digital and the texting efforts, but the digital, the data, that was kind of my part of the campaign, and we did some really incredible work in Louisiana,” he said, adding that he worked alongside Palumbo as they oversaw targeting voters and “distributing the message” via digital avenues.

Ziegler noted that he, Palumbo, and the rest of the team worked “to distribute that message to the right voters at the right time.”

“I mean, all credit goes to Jeff Landry for the victory. I mean, the guy is a phenomenal leader, and he’s going to be a phenomenal governor, so very excited about it, but we have a great team and, you know, we’ve worked on a couple of races together, and, you know, we’ve had a lot of success, so this is just another campaign that we had success on that was a lot of fun to work on,” he added.

Palumbo spoke with Breitbart News regarding Landry’s resounding win as well. He emphasized that any good campaign starts with “a great candidate that works hard, has a great message, and creates the energy to try to get crossover appeal.”

“We certainly had that with the attorney general,” he said while also delving into how the landscape of American politics has become increasingly divisive over recent decades, creating sub-factions in both major political parties that are concerned with “single issues.”

“Obviously, politics is very divisive and has been more and more over the last 15 or 20 years, and even recently, so we’re really not in a two-party system anymore,” Palumbo said. “Each of the parties have sub-segments that care about single issues, so, with that, modeling and targeting really has to change, and the other thing is how people absorb their news. More and more people are either just drowning out the news or going to alternate news sources, so you have to take that into account in order to target people because you can’t just reach the same folks that you tried to reach 15-20 years ago, or even ten years ago because they’re not absorbing the news the same way.”

“We really try to get into, and we rely a lot on alternative sources of data as well, that try to tie into, how are people absorbing their news? What are their interests outside of politics? And that really kind of goes into the methodology as well and then obviously take that data, and then marry it up with the electorate,” he explained. “As a Republican consultant, you can’t just target Republicans anymore. You obviously have to get the base out, but there are so many opportunities to get crossover voters, either NPAs [non-party affiliated voters] or Democrats if you have a candidate who can appeal on some of the single issues that these voters care about.”

One issue Palumbo pointed to that concerns Louisianans of all political persuasions and served as a major issue in the election is crime.

“Crime is the number-one issue in Louisiana; three of the top ten most dangerous cities in America are in Louisiana, so people want their streets back, and I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, or independent, you want to be safe. So I think that was obviously a key issue,” he said. Notably, earlier in 2023, Forbes found Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport to be three of the most dangerous cities in America.

“The other thing is education. I think there are a ton of single-issue voters. Of course, Moms for Liberty they have a group down there, which is great,” he said. “Louisiana called them the mama bears, which are single-issue voters concerned about education, parental rights, concerned about getting back to the basics, and just sort of the hijacking of the public education system by the Marxists, so I think that was another key issue for us that was able to get some crossover appeal.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry speaks with reporters at a news conference where it was announced that Republican Attorneys General of 21 states submitted a letter to the Senate to reject the two articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump  Jan. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

He also pointed to the economy, emphasizing voters see Landry as a governor who will be able to help create opportunities for the current and next generation of Louisianans. He noted that the Pelican State has “an unbelievable opportunity to be the next Florida, honestly, from an economic standpoint and development.”

Lewandowski told Breitbart News that he and Bossie were brought on in late 2022 “to build out an organization commensurate with what a difficult gubernatorial campaign would be.”

Lewandowski detailed that a major step early on was landing the Republican Party of Louisiana’s endorsement for the attorney general, which helped stave off some other potential serious challengers, including Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R).

“And so our job was to assemble a team that would work on a decision matrix that would allow Jeff to be as successful as possible, and the first thing that we did as a team, through the 25 years of relationships that we have, was to help Jeff secure the state party endorsement. It was absolutely critical,” he emphasized. “Once Jeff had the state party endorsement, seven or eight days later, Sen. Kennedy said he wouldn’t get into the race, which was a huge issue for us, and then obviously, the lieutenant governor also didn’t get into the race.”

As the campaign grew, Lewandowski noted that they worked to put together a team of mainly Louisiana-based individuals and then to establish a strong media operation.

“I served as a general consultant to the campaign along with Dave Bossie and others, and we began by assembling a team, predominantly Louisiana-based individuals, who would serve day-to-day operations whether it was a communications director who we found, her name is Kate Kelly, or the campaign manager, whose name is Cory Dennis. They all have lived in Louisiana and worked there, and so we found that team, we put it together, and then we assembled a media company that we brought on board. It’s called People Who Think; they are a Louisiana-based company, and they have done extensive work down there. Christian Ziegler, Matt Palumbo, myself, Dave Bossie, Brent Littlefield, who executed the direct mail program based on the data targeting that we had as well as black radio — it was really a joint effort, obviously, starting at the top with Jeff Landry.”

The strategist noted that “we did things very differently,” including avoiding “blanket communications” and focusing on positive messaging. In turn, Lewandowski said they were the only campaign out of the more than a dozen vying for the governorship that finished with a positive net favorability rating.

“We targeted, very specifically, individuals who were registered to vote and voted in 2016 and 2020, but didn’t vote in ’15 and ’19, meaning they vote for presidential candidates, but don’t vote in statewide elections,” Lewandowski recounted. “And when we slice that pie up, we found about 135,000 households — individuals that were incorporated there who were self-identified Trump supporters who don’t normally show up and vote — and we had specific targeting with securing Donald Trump’s endorsement to those individuals, knowing that each time we turned out 16,000 of that universe, it would get Jeff one additional percentage point in the polls.”

“And then our targeting was obviously factoring a 27 percent African American turnout; the African American turnout was down two points at 25 percent. Jeff’s percentage of support in New Orleans, which would normally be at eight percent, was actually ten percent,” he added. “And making crime and the issue of crime the determinative factor in the campaign really cut across every demographic, socio-economic status, and party label to say that people just wanted a solution.”

Lewandowski highlighted that the campaign was extremely “metric-driven,” noting that mail runs were in the hundreds rather than thousands or even tens of thousands, while the campaign spent 30 percent of its funds on social media.

Former President Donald Trump arrives at New Orleans International Airport in New Orleans, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, accompanied by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

“Our work on Facebook and social media vastly exceeded even what many people wrote about from the Obama years or the Trump years of 2016 in the cave. I mean, all that stuff’s ancient history now … Jeff Landry’s campaign spent about 30 percent of their budget on social media, as opposed to just on OTT [over-the-top] and traditional broadcast mediums,” he explained.

Lewandowski hailed Landry for his skills as not only a retail politician but also as a fundraiser.

“Jeff is one of the best retail politicians in America,” he said. “That’s the truth. He’s very good at retail politics, he enjoys it. He is also a prolific fundraiser, which is a unique combination. Most candidates like to do one or the other — either raise money or be out shaking hands — Jeff loves to do both, and so it allowed us to have a huge financial advantage because Jeff has built a fundraising apparatus over the course of his eight years as the attorney general, which we turned on, and then his ability to go out and get people motivated, and turn people out in force was a testament to him, but it was also a testament to the social media component.”

“We targeted people who were in specific geographic areas to let them know that Jeff was going to be at a specific location at a specific time, and the turnout increased probably 20-fold of what would have been there,” Lewandowski added.

Another senior strategist and media adviser who had a key role behind the scenes in the campaign was Jay Connaughton. Connaughton told Breitbart News that he was involved in producing paid media, including television advertisements as well as website branding and speech writing.

“We oversaw budgeting, and spend allocation and timing of everything that we did,” he noted. “So we were the guys creating the brand, creating the ads, and working to make sure that the campaign was disciplined on its message.”

He also spoke to what “a terrific candidate” Landry was and that, coupled with the teamwork amongst the unit, helped secure a momentous victory.

“When I first talked with Jeff, I told him I wanted to run a race as good of a candidate as you are, and we were able to do that,” he said. “He is just so talented, dynamic, intelligent, smart, but then you have to go run a campaign; you’ve got to execute that, and we had a team that did that. You know, we were flawless. We made no mistakes. We were strategic in everything that we did, and it paid off. It paid off big time. I mean, nobody expected us to win this thing in the primary on the first election night, but we were able to do it because we worked together.”

Another source close to the campaign, speaking anonymously, told Breitbart News that Landry’s ability to stay on message was crucial to the primary night victory.

“This was a complete team effort. From the candidate to the strategy to the implementation, communications, and all of the elements within it, the campaign staff did an amazing job,” the source said. “And it’s only part of how Jeff Landry won, but it was an important part.”

Landry’s victory is one of multiple recent signals of the rising scope and influence of Louisiana Republicans, as it was followed by House Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) ascension to the speaker’s gavel on Wednesday.

“Frankly, being in the state of Florida and Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, if they want to have a little bit of a friendly competition on what’s the top Republican state, I say, ‘Bring it,’” Ziegler jested while speaking with Breitbart News about the Bayour’s rise. “I’m very bullish about the direction that Louisiana is going to go with the leadership that’s rising up there. And it’s going to be fantastic, not just for Louisiana, but the entire country, frankly.”

As Landry moves from his post as the top law enforcement official in the state, Solicitor General Liz Murrill (R) seeks to succeed him as she heads to a runoff in the attorney general race on November 18. Murrill took 45 percent of the vote in the primary and led her nearest opponent, Lindsey Cheek (D), by 22 percent. Murrill has led numerous lawsuits against the Biden administration and has argued in other cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. One case, Louisiana and Missouri v. Biden, which challenges federal efforts to block alleged misinformation about the coronavirus and elections on social media, will be heard by the Supreme Court this term.

The case is Missouri v. Biden, in the Western District of Louisiana, No. 3:22-cv-01213-TAD-KDM.

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