Though roughly two years away from Louisiana’s state elections, here are a few predictions and scenarios that I can see playing out.
1) Return of the Pay Raise Furor Though every recall attempt targeting legislators who voted to significantly raise their salary fizzled, the radioactive issue will almost certainly be resurrected at an inconvenient time for incumbents able to run again.
Expect the appearance of protest candidates on shoestring budgets that will almost exclusively run on the pay raise. While few of these single-issue contenders will be successful themselves, the “anybody but the guy who voted to raise his own salary” candidates could tip the scales to other challengers running broader, better financed campaigns.
2) Jindal for Governor…NOT President The frontloaded primary and caucus calendar combined with Louisiana’s current odd-year election schedule means Governor Bobby Jindal can’t run for re-election as governor in 2011 and then go for president in 2012 as he would be getting sworn in for a second term a week after the New Hampshire primary.
If anything, the recent flap over Governor Bobby Jindal’s weekend sojourns to protestant churches in northern Louisiana is the biggest tell that the Republican will be spending his 2011 summer working the cotton fields outside of Rayville and not the cornrows of Iowa.
Though the news reports of his “community outreach” via helicopter were not favorable, the stories have done him the favor of broadcasting to all of north Louisiana that he has been spending a great deal of time in a region that broke him in 2003, made him in 2007 and he’ll desperately need in 2011.
3) Landrieu for Governor…NOT Lieutenant Governor It’s with good reason that Jindal has spent so much time raising money out of state and it has little to do with a presidential run, as dollars raised for a state race cannot be spent in a federal election.
The national Democrats have a history of aggressively going after the GOP’s farm-team and there’s no more coveted trophy out there than that of the young, Ivy League-educated Indian-American governor. Jindal knows the DNC is targeting him and has bused himself with securing the kind of campaign financing that cannot be generated solely within Louisiana’s borders.
With control of the White House and the Congress, the Democrats can raise loads of money for any candidate, though their options are limited. The state’s lone Democrat in the US House of Representatives will either have been elected or defeated for US Senator leaving the two Democrats holding statewide office: Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.
Landrieu, who recently decided not to run for mayor of New Orleans- a race where he was the heavy favorite, would be the stronger candidate and figuring that he would not have the luxury of being opposed by a weak field as was the case in his last two campaigns, the lieutenant governor might as well gun for the top office if he is going to have a fight anyway.
4) Ma-Maw’s Revenge The biggest drawback to Jindal serving as McCain’s running mate was the prospect of Landrieu moving up if the GOP ticket won. McCain operatives were astonished by the protests by Louisiana party leaders and activists concerning the possibility of Jindal joining the ticket.
Neither Jindal nor the national GOP will make the same mistake of ignoring an office that could very well limit the governor’s national ambitions. Unfortunately the GOP hasn’t run a serious candidate for the job since Paul Hardy in 1991, mainly because it’s a hard to raise campaign funds for the office.
But for one potential candidate, fundraising won’t be a problem.
As of the last campaign finance reporting period, former governor Kathleen Blanco has $2.3 million in her campaign account. Though it was raised under the presumption of a re-election bid for governor, the money that can be used in any non-judicial state. Including lieutenant governor.
And here is where it gets interesting.
Had Blanco gone for a second term, there is a good chance Jindal would have beaten her. And though there are parts of the state where one spits on the ground upon uttering her name, the former governor isn’t a pariah everywhere. It was north Louisiana that elected her over Jindal in 2003, which is the region a Republican has to win big to offset the solid urban Democratic vote.
As part of her political rehabilitation, Blanco has re-emerged in the spotlight, speaking out on the need to protect higher education, appearing at political functions and working on a book telling her side of the Katrina story.
And if her return to the political arena is not greeted with alleluias, Blanco will be armed with a potent political weapon: she could boast that her return to the relatively innocuous position of lieutenant governor would be the political equivalent of chaining Jindal to a radiator in the basement of the State Capitol.
Jindal’s frequent out of state trips would end on inauguration day; his vice-presidential aspirations D.O.A.
If Blanco runs for lieutenant governor, the race for Louisiana’s second highest office could overshadow the contest for the highest, potentially putting Jindal’s political future in the hands of the Democrat who successfully stymied his ambitions eight years before.