Friday, October 23, 2015

Louisiana Governor Election

Status: Republican Open
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Prediction: Tossup (R)

I have been meaning to get around to start writing posts on the three Gubernatorial contests this fall, starting alphabetically in Kentucky. However, I have been busy and it slipped my mind that technically, Louisiana may elect a new Governor tomorrow, and thus, I had to keep my blog commitment and get this out of the way today. Nonetheless, it is a virtual certainty that the new Governor will not be known until after a November 21st runoff. Under the state's "jungle primary", all candidates of all parties will appear together on the ballot tomorrow. If somebody gets over 50 percent of the vote, they win. If not, the top two finishers, regardless of party, advance to the runoff. That is what will happen, as three major Republican candidates and one major Democrat compete. The Democrat will place first tomorrow, but is expected to be well below 50 percent and the second place Republican finisher will be his opponent down the stretch.

Four years ago, Republican Bobby Jindal was overwhelmingly reelected against token opposition and looked to continue his rise in the GOP. Now, Jindal, the nation's first Indian-American Governor, who has moved sharply to the right rhetorically, is quite unpopular at home in the Bayou, and struggling in a large Republican Presidential primary field. The political fall of Jindal is really pretty spectacular. Polls show that he alone would lose in his home state of Louisiana to Hillary Clinton, if he were to somehow be nominated. All of Jindal's political problems in the very conservative state are certainly not helping his party's prospects to succeed him, but still, the state has become Republican enough, that another one had been expected to be elected.

Things have not gone exactly according to plan though, as the man long considered the GOP frontrunner is showing his own political weakness and the party is fractured. In a state where political parties, as institutions, have long been weaker than anywhere in the country, that has increased the possibility that Democrat John Bel Edwards, the State House Minority Leader, could be elected Governor. Edwards, is not related to the legendary and colorful Democrat politico Edwin Edwards, who lost a post-prison Congressional race as recent as last year, but John Bel's father did work for the former Governor. The Democrats long ago united behind his 2015 Gubernatorial candidacy, at least after recently defeated Senator Mary Landrieu passed on a bid, and that should be enough to guarantee his campaign continues after tomorrow, even though Republicans would have loved to place two party members in the runoff.

Edwards' total will easily be surpassed by the combined numbers of three Republicans. The one who is expected to get the most is two-term U.S. Senator David Vitter, who was the first Republican to ever be elected to the Senate in the state. Before going to Washington, Vitter was in the state legislature, and has long had Gubernatorial ambitions. If he is elected, he will be able to appoint a replacement. If he falls short, he will have the awkward circumstance of facing reelection to the Senate next year.

Like Jindal, Vitter was once considered one of the most promising young conservatives in the country, but several years back, his name was linked to a prostitution scandal. While he never directly expressed guilt, he publicly apologized for wrong-doings in his past with his wife at his side. Folks on the left from around the country have greatly enjoyed attacking Vitter for his transgressions and a possible fetish, but that was not enough to prevent him from a sold 2010 reelection to the Senate.

Now, the scandal is somewhat back in the news, along with uncorroborated claims made by a woman who says that Vitter impregnated her in 2000, and demanded she abort the baby, she later gave up for adoption. All of these matters might be hurting Vitter among his party's socially conservative voters, but his association with the  U.S. Senate, in this time of right-wing angst against GOP majorities might also be hurting as much as anything else. I will note that both Vitter's wife and alleged mistress are named Wendy. I wonder if he enjoys Frostys.

Other Republicans were not content to leave the Gubernatorial field to Vitter alone. Running behind him in the polls, but close to each other are Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, himself a former interim Lt. Governor, and ex-Democrat. It does not seem to me like there are any great philosophical differences between these GOP candidates, but it's more a matter of personalities and different backgrounds. While Vitter's base is in the New Orleans suburbs, Angelle seems to playing up his Cajun roots, and Dardenne is from Baton Rouge. They are both going after Vitter hard,and if he does become Governor, they are probably not high on his list for potential Senate replacements.

While it does not seem like any of the Duck Dynasty characters have gotten involved in this battle, Vitter was long seen as having a big edge in the race, along with national party support. Angelle and Dardenne seem to be cancelling each other out, as alternatives. Hypothetical polling shows that either might have a very good shot of beating Vitter in a one on one statewide race.

More ominous though for Republicans are runoff polls showing that the Democrat Edwards now appears ahead of Vitter. Those same polls also show that the other two GOP candidates would stand a much better chance of beating the Democrat if they were to advance.

Even if a case could be made that Vitter should be dumped strategically, he is probably going to finish second tomorrow and advance. After that happens, there will be much work to be done to unite the party behind him, and what Angelle and Dardenne will do much in determining how the very short general election develops. If distrust or anger against Vitter lingers, the damage might very well be enough to cost the Republicans the Governorship. That will cause political glee among Democrats across the country, but would definitely not be indication that the southern state is moving left, especially after the 2014 midterms there.

After the jungle primary dust settles though after this weekend, I think Vitter and the Republican Governors Association will do their best to nationalize the race and tie John Bel Edwards to unpopular Presidency of Barack Obama in the state. It is highly unlikely that Hillary Clinton will do any campaigning there next month, even if only to gin up African-American turnout, but some Republican candidates might make a trip. Ironically though, Bobby Jindal, the incumbent Governor and Presidential candidate will be urged to stay in the background.

We may know a lot more about this race in a few weeks, but right now, my hunch is that Republicans come home at the end, for no other reason than to oppose a Democrat, and Vitter wins ugly.

Vitter campaign link:


At 7:50 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey, I've got Vitter winning 55%-45% against JBE!


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