Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jindal Down in Poll. But Far from Out

It seems that the S.S. Jindal has taken on some water according to the latest poll from Southern Media and Opinion Research survey on statewide officials.

Governor Bobby Jindal, who had spent a considerable amount of time on the campaign trail for Republican candidates across the country (Louisiana excepted) and has recently been touring the nation promoting a book he wrote on leadership, saw his poll numbers fall significantly, an indication that a sizable portion of the Louisiana electorate is not enamored with his out of state travels.

According to the SMOR data, Jindal’s approval rating stood at 55%, a six point dip since the last survey the Baton Rouge-based polling company performed in the spring. Matching Jindal’s popularity dip was the rise in his negative rating, which climbed to 43%.

Jindal’s SMOR poll numbers have tumbled considerably since the spring of 2009, where the governor enjoyed a high, if not unrealistically so, 68% approval rating with a 30% negative rating.

At first glance, the most troubling aspect of the poll for Jindal is that only 39% of respondents said they would definitely vote to re-elect him with 35% stating they would definitely vote for someone else. However, as 35% is about the state’s hardcore Democratic vote, that number isn’t as astonishing as it might appear. In fact it’s automatic opposition to any candidate with an “R” next to his or her name.

Jindal has been flayed in the local press for being out of state so much during very dire budget times with the most stinging hit coming courtesy of the LSU student government president who used mocking letters to the editor in newspapers in states that hold early presidential primaries and caucuses to slam the governor for his extracurricular political activities beyond Louisiana and for the expected severe hit to the state’s higher education budget.

The governor’s numbers have also been affected by the constant speculation that he will run for president, despite Jindal’s constant claims he will not be a candidate. Once Jindal’s bid for re-election as governor begins, concerns about his presidential aspirations, at least in 2012, will be quelled and resentment for his out of state travels will subside when people see him in Bunkie instead of Des Moines.

Jindal’s lower approval rating isn’t politically terminal. The governor has raised an astounding $8,000,000 after three years of constant fundraising in Louisiana and beyond. A challenger is going to have a hard time putting together even half that amount, especially almost exclusively in-state.

As one of the GOP’s rising stars, Jindal parlayed his celebrity status to attract dollars to his campaign from people in other states that normally wouldn’t care about who wins governor of Louisiana. Jindal’s Democratic “Opponent To Be Named Later” is going to have a hard time getting someone in Delaware to spend $1,000 on a photo op with him or her.

In all likelihood, Jindal will have the capacity to spend $2 defining his opponent for every $1 he or she spends just trying to build name recognition.

And who is the Democrat “Opponent to Be Named Later” going to be? The Baton Rouge Advocate recently did an article on potential Democratic challengers with none committing to the race beyond “consideration” and two in particular offering clever quips renouncing even the prospect of running.

And while first time candidate Caroline Fayard proved that quasi-self-financing with generous sums of money is one way to pole vault over better established politicians in the primary, the end result was being on the wrong side of a runoff landslide against a candidate she outspent by a wide-margin.

And I should add, that was for an office the public doesn’t really care about.

Jindal’s most vocal critic is a fellow Republican, State Treasurer John Kennedy, who has sparred with the fourth floor in the press over the budget.

Kennedy, who has the highest approval rating of the officials polled at 61%, is not expected to challenge Jindal, with a source close to the treasurer stating, “John has the job he wants”.

And though stern words have been exchanged between the two Republicans, Jindal is in no danger of losing his core GOP base- that being the same bloc of voters responsible for dispatching the last Republican governor that lost re-election.

Though Jindal’s poll numbers have fallen and might fall even further as the budget battle becomes more public and protracted, until he draws an opponent who can match his well-stocked warchest and convince Louisiana voters that had just overwhelmingly embraced the Republican ticket to swing back to the Democratic Party, the governor goes into the election year a heavy favorite for a primary win.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seasons' Greetings, Gropings and Scannings!

The day before Thanksgiving marks the busiest travel time in the country as millions of younger Americans return to their roots to celebrate with their families that most unique of our holidays.

But the route between their new home and their old home will be marked with traffic snarls and lines at the airport.

The former because we own so many cars (no need to apologize) and the latter because our country is so large and our population so mobile, passenger air service makes it convenient and in some cases necessary.

But in 2010, those lines at the airport are going to be longer. A lot longer.

And for that, we can thank Osama Bin Laden and his stooge disciples, the bumbling shoe and underwear bombers in particular.

The 9-11 hijackers utilized box cutters and fear that they were armed with something more potent to manifest their martyrdom and murder.

In December 2001, Richard Reid used something a more technical in his attempt: 10 ounces of C-4 plastic explosives hidden in his shoes. Thankfully, Reid wasn’t that bright. He apparently wore the shoes around, which either absorbed moisture or got wet in the rain, and thus he had trouble detonating the shoe bombs. Also deserving of credit are passengers and flight attendants who physically subdued Reid while in the act of trying to light the fuse.

Had Reid succeeded, the explosives would have done enough damage to bring down the transatlantic flight.

Mr. Reid is the reason why we must all shuffle about airport screening areas in our socks so our shoes can be checked through x-ray machines to see if they’ve been hallowed out.

Four years later British intelligence exposed a plot to smuggle explosives in gel form concealed in sports drinks on to transoceanic flights in an attempt to simultaneously blow up the planes while over the Atlantic. This plot was nipped in the bud before it was near execution and dozens of people were arrested. One of those conspirators had wide-ranging access at London’s Heathrow Airport.

They are the reason why we must buy mini-sized toothpastes, shampoo and mouthwash and stick them in zip lock bags if we don’t check baggage (something people try to avoid due to fees) and why if we’re thirsty, we have to pay near baseball stadium prices on bottled water and sodas on the other side of the security screening area.

And then there is Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, AKA the underwear bomber.

A child of privilege, the highly educated Abdulmu…no, he doesn’t deserve to be known by his name…he shall henceforth be referred to as the “panty popper”…decided to end it all for himself and 289 people on Christmas Day 2009 on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Unlike Reid, who tried to blow the plane up in front of everyone- perhaps a sign that he was hoping someone would save him from himself, the “panty popper” set his plan in motion as the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 neared Detroit away from prying eyes in the privy.

Once again, luck was on the side of the passengers as the explosive device didn’t work as planned with the “panty popper” setting his leg and part of the plane’s interior wall on fire.

A Dutch passenger tackled the would be martyr while flight attendants (who seem to provide more of a service than just providing people drinks) extinguished the flames. The “panty popper” had chemical explosives sewn into his underwear, which a standard metal detector would not pick up.

In other words, the “panty popper” used a smuggling technique not too far removed from that employed by my fraternity brothers who wished to secret whiskey in Tiger Stadium: liquids in plastic packaging hidden in an area nobody was likely to check.

And it is thanks to the “panty popper” we must all be zapped in a giant clear chamber that checks under our clothes, in our body crevices, douses with radiation and maybe makes us become sympathetic to the approaching out of space visitors looking to take over Earth.

It is this latest indignity that has people angry, as people tend to link radiation with cancer, with most people believing the alternative is letting a low level government employee getting to second base on us.

Well folks, I have some bad news: last week I got the Bruce Banner treatment and had to be groped anyway. In other words, it’s not an either/or.

Such treatment has led folks to angrily quote the Declaration of Independence, Sean Hannity, Edmund Burke and Ron Paul at high volumes in the presence of TSA workers, whom I imagine more than a few are happy to no longer be employed at Walmart.

In a recent column, George Will opined that the elaborately intrusive TSA screening system is theatre intended more to reassure than protect. To a degree he’s right.

Notice how the security policies come AFTER the failed or foiled attempts. In other words, the government agencies are reacting to and not anticipating for Al-Qaeda’s end around plays.

That’s the part that bothers me the most.

But it does provide a modicum of protection against the acts of terrorism by making things more complicated for the bay guys. Remember how easy Mohamed Atta & Co. had it, walking right on board with weapons? Now things are as complicated for the terrorists are they are for travelers.

No walking in with sharp objects (or knitting needles). No plastique (or silly putty for junior). No gel-based explosives (or hair gel for those who must have managed hair). And no chemical based liquid accelerants (or that bottle of Aquafina I bought at the Exxon for 99 cents).

And with the new scanners that can peep anywhere except our souls, no smuggling any of those things in an uncomfortable place. And I’m not talking about the backseat of a Volkswagen.

So if terrorists are largely prevented from running things through the actual checkpoints, then they need to expand their conspiracy…which increases the chances of a bust via someone with second-thoughts, a heavy conscience, a girlfriend who talks too much and/or a sleeper agent.

And the cost of this added layer of protection/irritation?

According to an AP story that ran on the frontpage of last Friday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle (Cheyenne), $175,000 per scanner.

From my personal experience, removing every little thing from your pockets. Everything.

So your wallet, money clip, lucky fava beans, etc. makes it through the x-ray machine before you make it through the ray-gun booth. That had me sweating more than the microwaves running through my body.

According to the article in the aforementioned daily, there are two kinds of scanners: the millimeter wave units and the backscatter variety. The former emits a weak radiation that is harmless; the latter emits X-ray like radiation, which experts claim are insignificant.

How insignificant might you ask? It’s less radiation than one is exposed to during a dental x-ray or from flying in the plane itself, which receives a big dose of it from being closer to the sun’s rays.

Each machine can scan 350 people an hour. Optimally.
As the technology is new, the TSA people not overly skilled in its operation and travelers ornery, things don’t go so smoothly.

For example, while boarding a flight to Denver the early morning line at Moisant’s Southwest gate (one of the faster security lines) stretched to the gift shop. After waiting patiently, I finally went into the booth, was zapped and then I had to stand there. Two people ahead of me was a guy that needed to be checked, necessitating a male “toucher”. After he was give the once over, I was stuck standing in the booth as the next person head of me was female and needed to be vetted by a female so the first checker had to go back.

I was out of the booth when I had to wait again as, you guessed it, the male checker had to come back. After being patted down, I scampered to my flight gate with belt, possessions and shoes not in their usual places. My high “B” number made academic by the security gate delay as almost all of the other passengers were already on board.

Rather than having separate scanners for male and female with appropriate staff to do the mandatory body checks (which seems unnecessary since the scanner should pick up more than a hand feel), the TSA check was a Three Stooges operation.

So if you’re one of those people traveling this Thanksgiving week (or any other week in this new reality of ours), allow me to share some advice.

1) Add another hour, thirty minutes minimum, to your airport arrival. What used to take less than 30 minutes will take an hour, etc. The TSA isn’t familiar with the new machinery and you have to remove a lot more now, so that’s going to back things up.

2) Save the drama for your congressman. The TSA people don’t make the rules, they just clumsily enforce them. Rather than quoting the second hour segments of radio talk show hosts who rant about the TSA but fly on private jets, bear it (you’re not obligated to grin). If you don’t like it, don’t fly and/or write your congressman and US Senators. But please do not cause a scene. Making the family behind you miss their flight isn’t being patriotic just because you’re pissed off. Really. How much more different is being disruptive in the airport security line than it was for those anti-war protestors in San Francisco who unwisely decided to recklessly block thoroughfares to vent their spleens about George W. Bush? Not a whole lot. Blog. Write. Phone in your protests. But don’t go Patrick Henry on TSA workers unless you have a lawyer with too much free time on his or her hands.

3) If you request to not go through the scanner, expect to be thoroughly groped. The bomber who could be behind you in line doesn’t want to go through the scanner either, but for different reasons as terminal illness isn’t much of a concern.

While there are more ways for terrorists to strike at our country than simply bringing down planes, airports are a favorite target. And even the most comprehensive security measures cannot fully protect people. The precautions that have been put in place are not the best, but are simply the best available. However, the pre-existing screening devices and systems that were previously in place didn’t do the job and we can’t count on Al-Qaeda to always send in bumbling agents to do their bidding.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Early Call: Landry to Win, Vitter, Dardenne Start Strong

The early returns from Saint Bernard show that Republican Jeff Landry will cruise to an easy election in the Third Congressional District.

Landry won 70% of the early vote to Democrat Ravi Sangisetty's 30%.

Also starting with a lead are Republicans Jay Dardenne and David Vitter. Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon, who represents Saint Bernard in Congress, received 35% in the first numbers reported. Dardenne ran ahead of Democrat Caroline Fayard, 60% to 40%.

The Early Call: Saint Bernard Parish Turnout

Turnout in the suburban parish of Saint Bernard has reached 22% as of 6 PM. Black turnout is keeping on par with the average, a sign that a key component of the Democratic Party's base is motivated in the mid-term election.

The first results will be posted here at 8 PM.

Election 2010: Oh, How Far the GOP Will Go?!

1994 was somewhat of a surprise.

While many Republicans expected the US Senate to swing to the GOP, not many people expected the party to retake of the US House of Representatives, which hadn’t been under Republican control since the early days of the Eisenhower Administration.

Though only 16 years removed, the world was a very different place. Information mainly flowed through newspapers, radio and television, with the internet being a novelty with rough graphics and slow speed.

But things are different now. Competition in the cable news realm and the expansion of their reach has denied the networks of their de facto monopoly of news on election night. Election results are posted real-time in some states and polling data is readily available from news and politics sites, with the most prominent being Real Clear Politics.

Political junkies in New Jersey can easily follow a US House race in Mississippi.

If video killed the radio star, than the internet ruined the surprise.

Now the political party on the ropes can hear the Jaws music playing as the dorsal fin advances towards the victim.

2010 will be the reverse of 1994. The US House of Representatives has been conceded to the GOP for weeks now, with only polished liars from the Democratic end arguing otherwise. They encourage their most die-hard supporters to stand, like Linus from Peanuts, in the pumpkin patch (or National Mall), awaiting the big surprise.

The problem for the Democrats is that the surprise took place just under two years ago after the American public that had voted in the presidential election with their dreams and aspirations without bother reading the fine print learned that Barack Obama had more than magic and rainbows in store for country.

While fudging on the details during the campaign, Obama promised change and by the eternal, he delivered much of it.

The American electorate was much like a tourist visiting a foreign country who opted to order something in a restaurant from a menu written in a language he did not comprehend. And when the toursit saw what the waiter brought out was not what he intended to order, the exasperated tourist sent it back, this time making a point to spell out EXACTLY what they wanted.

That’s precisely what’s going to happen on Tuesday. Steak-hungry voters are sending back Obama’s goulash that they have no intention of paying for.
In 2008, the voters wanted their spirits raised; in 2010, they want government spending lowered.

The Races


Right now, Republicans are projected to win governorships in states where the GOP has been shut out for eight years or more. The Great Lakes states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan are expected to elect Republicans on Tuesday, which are key battleground states in presidential elections. Iowa, Maine and New Mexico are also expected to elect Republican gubernatorial candidates to succeed Democrats.

Gubernatorial contests in Oregon, Massachusetts and Colorado have been classified as toss-ups, though Democrats hold the edge in recent poll numbers.

US House of Representatives

Perhaps Nancy Pelosi should consider making a cameo in the sequel to Zombieland as she’s technically already dead…at least as speaker.

District poll numbers have shown a likely take over of the 435-member chamber for weeks now, with the only question being the margin of control Republicans will possess.

Democrats have only three Republican seats in play. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are effectively challenging six-dozen Democratic seats. Hardly an equal trade.

The GOP’s floor is a net 50 and their peak is a net 80; Republicans only need to net 40 seats to attain a majority. In addition to gain control of half of Congress, Republican candidates are in a position to knock out a few prominent Democrats, including Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank.

US Senate

The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts marked the first chip in the Democratic senate majority. There are going to be a lot more chips on Tuesday, with the question being will it be enough to attain 51 seats, since Vice-President Joe Biden would provide the tie-breaker for his party.

There are no Republican seats in the US Senate that are vulnerable while on the Democratic side, their majority leader might suffer an ignominious defeat at the hand of a TEA Partier.

The poll numbers have been contracting in the GOP’s favor over Halloween weekend. Pennsylvania, Washington State, West Virginia, California, Nevada, Illinois and Colorado are within reach by either party, though Republicans are expected to win most of them.

The GOP will have to win six of the aforementioned seven to win a majority. Democrats may retain control by a narrow margin or via tie. The big question is whether the Republican voter enthusiasm and momentum to close the margins. Even though Republicans won’t win in Connecticut and Delaware, closer than projected races could serve as an omen in races where Republicans either hold a slight advantage or are trailing the Democrats by the margin of error.

Also keep in mind as that much of Washington State votes by mail, it could be weeks before we find out which party controls the US Senate. I should also add that Washington State also has a bad past when it comes to close elections.

You’ve been warned.



GOP wins a majority of the governorships with 30, the US House of Representatives with a swing of 73 seats and the US Senate by one after Washington State finally provides its numbers in an environment of voter fraud allegations and missing ballots.


US Senator Vitter 55% Melancon 42% Others 3%

Lieutenant Governor Dardenne 57% Fayard 43%

Second Congressional District Richmond 52% Cao 45% Others 3%

Third Congressional District Landry 62% Sangisetty 38%

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Times Picayune Thorws Cao Under the Streetcar

Republican Congressman Joseph Cao, who is already facing strong opposition from Pennsylvania Avenue and Perdido Street (New Orleans City Hall), can add Howard Avenue to obstacles he will have to overcome in his quest for a second term in the US House of Representatives as the Times Picayune has cast its lot behind Democratic state representative Cedric Richmond's bid for Congress.

The paper's position was a surprise, considering Richmond’s political baggage in contrast with the ex-seminarian's near pristine record in his brief time in office.

Why would the Times Picayune, an entity that dresses itself up as an advocate for reform and good government, come out against Cao? And yes, I use the word against because Cao is the incumbent and to support a challenger is tantamount to calling for his removal.

One longtime veteran of the journalism community speculated the TP was looking to bet on winners, hence they also endorsed US Senator David Vitter's re-election bid, as if they were trying to handicap a parlay.

Richmond is the heavy favorite as he possesses far more advantages than the incumbent even during this decidedly favorable political environment for the GOP- at least nationally. The district is majority black and even more heavily aligned with the Democratic Party and much of the New Orleans white political establishment has lined up behind Richmond.

However, I've seen where the TP has embraced hopeless candidates for office. Does the name Greg Marcantel ring a bell? The mayor of Jennings was the endorsed Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 1995 and received 6% to finished in 4th place. Yet the Times Picayune backed his candidacy over three better-known, better-funded candidates, including then-Public Service Commissioner Kathleen Blanco.

Perhaps hedging their bets on the winner was a factor. But I think ticket balancing was their main motivation.

In their election recommendations, which appeared on Friday, the Times Picayune endorsed Vitter, Richmond and 1st District incumbent Republican Congressman Steve Scalise. They stayed out of the general election for US Representative in the sprawling Third District, which runs along the coast from Shell Beach west to New Iberia. They're also backing Republican Jay Dardenne for Lieutenant Governor.

So in terms of major elections the Times Picayune is with 3 Republicans and a Democrat. But that doesn't get them off the hook in the Second District.

If their endorsement Richmond was made because of concern that they will be seen not supporting enough black candidates and/or Democrats, it’s unacceptable.

The role of a credible media entity that makes endorsements, particularly one that is as established as the Times Picayune, is to reject populism and offer unbiased, sound counsel to the public, no matter what it does to their advertising page or circulation. They have the resources to investigate, research and present the most compelling arguments for ideas and candidates.

The editorial board or whoever calls the shots on endorsements at the newspaper should not deliberate in the same manner and cold calculation that a political organization utilizes when seeking to balance their election ticket.

Cao has already had to confront disappointment of being misled, rather LIED to by the President of the United States who preached about the need to work together regardless of party only to cut his first and only campaign ad against the man he called his favorite Republican.

Now Cao has been abandoned by the same entity that lectures political and government morality on a daily basis. And the media have the audacity to complain about the rise of cynicism by the public?

Joe Cao was both an unconventional Republican congressional candidate and congressman. How do you think this snub went over with him?

The Times Picayune's endorsement of Richmond should not be viewed as a reflection on Cao but rather a reflection on themselves. Though they possess all the power and influence that comes with buying paper by the ton and ink by the barrel, the Times Picayune has just lost all moral authority to wag their fingers as politicians.

When an entity like the Times Picayune endorses candidates, because of their reach, it goes beyond a mere blessing: they're facilitating their election. And when they should know better, the blame for sins committed by their candidates can be left at their doorstep, especially when the candidates they pick often cite their editorial endorsements as evidence of their good character.

And when it comes to a member of Congress, the Times Picayune won't be able to bury his mistakes in the same journalistic potter's field that they charitably call the "corrections and clarifications" section on page two, which is the hardest page to read in a newspaper

The staid Crescent City publication might end up regretting its endorsement of Richmond, just as they surely have of other unwise decisions such as their prior support for Edwin Edwards' first run for governor in the early seventies, the proposed Riverfront Expressway and Obama's presidential candidacy (how’d that drilling moratorium thingy work out for ya?!).

And so it is up to the voters of the Second Congressional District to do the job the Times Picayune is unwilling to do: act to prevent the rebirth of the New Orleans political machine by voting to keep Cao.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Left Sends in the Clowns

President Barack Obama and his allies have been very busy in the waning days of the 2010 congressional midterm elections.

When the President of the United States has not been accusing Republicans of “sippin’ on a Slurpee” (fine presidential rhetoric, non?), he encouraged Hispanic voters in a radio interview with Univision to “punish our enemies”.

Such spicy talk serves as the backdrop of comedian/television news parody host Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” on Saturday, October 30th on the Washington Mall.

The event is largely a reaction to Glenn Beck’s successful gathering in front of the Lincoln Memorial in August to encourage Americans to once again embrace religion.

Where was Stewart’s conscience when such “civil” statements such as “Save Mother Earth, Kill Bush”, “Somewhere in Texas a Village is Missing Their Idiot” and numerous comparisons of the 43rd president to Adolf Hitler were commonly and quite casually dispensed by the Left during the previous administration?

Where was Stewart’s call to arms when a so-called mockumentary, Death of a President, which created a scene where Bush was murdered in Chicago, was released? Or when the “fantasy” film won the International Critics Prize at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival?

He was most likely yucking it up on camera with pithy wise cracks about selectively edited Fox News clips.

But this is a different time. A Democrat is in charge.

Republicans should be used to such duplicitous and partisan displays by Viacom, which owns both Comedy Central and MTV. The latter’s “Rock the Vote” campaign was blatantly directed towards recruiting new voters for Democratic candidates.

The network, which used to actually have music on it, showed their stripes when they sponsored inaugural balls for Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, but lost interest in hosting such social events on the eve of presidential inaugurations in 2001 and 2005. How curious.

When this blogger in 2000 put in a call to Viacom’s office to ask why young supporters of George W. Bush would not also be feted, I was told because a Republican won.

Apparently they were serious as MTV got back into the inaugural party business in 2009 after Obama was elected. If the president loses to a Republican in 2012, I think it would be safe to anticipate another capricious shift by Viacom on the matter. They might even blame the economy for the austerity measure.

Jon Stewart is a suave liberal smart aleck. Stephen Colbert is an obnoxious, self-promoting B-movie actor who mocks conservatives trough his latter day Archie Bunker-esque Republican caricature.

And while their programs are intended to amuse than to educate despite seamlessly shifting from fact to fiction to interview to jokes, they are hits with the Obama Administration.

President Obama recently made an appearance on The Daily Show that initially had people wondering if doing so was beneath the office of the presidency and immediately thereafter led the same to express wonder how the jokester managed to upstage the teleprompterless leader of the free world.

Vice-President Joe Biden and five members of Obama’s cabinet have also appeared on the satirical program and/or its spin-off The Colbert Report. Some might take it as a sign of The Daily Show’s influence; I interpret such appearances on these faux news shows as a poor reflection on the people charged with running the country.

The Comedy Central drop-bys are acts of pandering, as both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are popular with the young people who helped put Obama in office in 2008 and who are also the same people struggling to find work in 2010.

And if it wasn’t for the fact that the owner of the WWE is a Republican (and candidate for the US Senate), an appearance on Piper’s Pit might have been penciled on the president’s schedule.

If the Garden State’s electoral votes end up being in play, will Obama have a backyard barbeque with Snooki and the cast of Jersey Shore to discuss the merits of Cap and Trade?

We’ve gone a long way, not necessarily in the right direction, since candidates- that’s CANDIDATES- Richard Nixon said “sock it to me” on Laugh-In and Bill Clinton played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show.

Obama is expected to benefit at the officially “non-partisan” rally that is being pushed hard not just by Stewart and Colbert, but liberal blog queen Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey, who endorsed and used her celebrity to stump for Obama during his bid for the Democratic nomination.

And the Christian Science Monitor reports that leading global warming alarmist Sheryl Crow will perform at the event. This sounds about as bipartisan as a Move-On protest at a Dick Cheney birthday party.

All of this is just part of Obama and the Democratic Party’s last-ditch multi-faceted attempt to gin up turnout.

Obama and Co. are supplementing their race-baiting rhetoric with the once abhorred street money that will once again flow in Philadelphia and other urban centers as the Democrats and their allied organizations attempt to win via truly retail politics.

Unions have already dumped tens of millions from the paychecks of blue-collar workers to protect their piece of the action.

And in their last gambit to inspire the youth of America who have obviously crashed hard from the heady euphoria of two years before, the Left is sending out clowns, sans punch and cake unless the Big O coughs that up at the last minute.

And thus a generation is being ripped off on both the front end and the back end.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Cao Matters

If the political career of Joseph Cao comes to a sudden halt on November 2nd, he will have done more by himself than legions of other Louisiana elected officials before him to have changed the political culture and the rightfully assigned negative perception of Louisiana politics.

I first met Cao in 2007 while we were running for state representative in the same district. As his voter base and mine were different in the sprawling, gerrymandered legislative district our paths only crossed at forums. At the time Cao was a registered Independent, an affiliation shared by much of the TEA Party crowd who have involved themselves in the GOP in order to do the work that established Republican office-holders wouldn’t do.

As the last precinct reported, I ran third and Cao ran fifth so neither of us made the runoff, though the order didn’t matter much since, to paraphrase a saying from a certain movie that mocked NASCAR, if you’re not first (or second), you’re last.

After endorsing the same candidate in the general election (a Republican who himself fell short), we kept in touch, talking on the phone about the GOP and politics in general about once a month.

Then in May of 2008, Cao called to ask what I thought about the idea of him running for Congress. He’d be challenging the first African-American to be elected from Louisiana to Congress since Reconstruction in a majority black district and, despite the cloud of scandal that ominously loomed over him personally and politically, had won re-election by a landslide against a well-financed, credible black candidate.

Not one to mince words, I said he should do it.

It didn’t matter what the odds were. It didn’t matter what the city political machine would do during the election (or after balloting ended).

What mattered was that the voters of the congressional district had a real choice. What they did with that choice would be more of a reflection on them than the earnest Republican-convert.

Without going into the minutiae of how things played out (that’s well documented in the 2008 archives of my blog), Cao won a historic victory in a perfect political storm.

Since taking office Cao has carved a voting record that is more conservative than the people he represents, though not nearly conservative enough for most of his critics, who have sniped at him from districts far removed from the lower Ninth Ward.

Cao was elected as an unconventional candidate and went to Washington to be an unconventional congressman. Any political naiveté on his part should be forgiven and/or appreciated.

Cao broke with his party on a number of votes, particularly related to social programs that are utilized by his constituents, many of whom live below the poverty line and reside in neighborhoods no Republican activist would go door to door in without sporting a Brooks Brothers vest made of kevlar.

However, Cao has cast votes that no other Democratic replacement would ever wish to make. If the only conservative vote Cao made was against Cap and Trade, which I consider economic treason, political insanity and industrial redistribution, I would be satisfied as it would be more than a conservative should ever expect to come forth from the Second District.

Here are a few reasons to vote for Cao:

1) Life experience: Cao’s story is one of the most remarkable in American politics and is comparable to that of the late Tom Lantos. Cao was an adolescent refugee forced to flee the Communist take over of his country of birth (South Vietnam) while having to abandon his father to the reeducation camps of the Viet Cong. Before his father passed away a few days ago, Cao shared with me how his father was mentally scarred for life from that experience. It’s one thing for congressmen to bloviate for hours on CSPAN about oppressive regimes around the world; Cao knows their nature from personal experience.

2) Life experience, Part Deux: Cao had the misfortune of his home being inundated during both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Gustav. There’s no question that he has a vested interest in securing better flood protection for South Louisiana; he needs it!

3) He made the effort: Cao went to Washington prepared to work with President Barack Obama, who had carped much about working across the aisle to bring a new era of civility to the national government. Cao’s willingness to sit down with the president earned him the moniker of being Obama’s favorite Republican. Thanks to Cao’s naiveté, Obama has been exposed as a complete fraud, in which in the president’s mind the only good Republican is one out of office. The president cut his first commercial for Cao’s Democratic opponent, removing any illusion from Cao or anyone else that blindly bought what Obama was selling about the importance of bipartisanship. The emperor truly hath no sincerity.

4) Cao or Another cog in the political machine? Cao has busied himself with being a congressman, keeping his forays into other political realms at a complete minimum. The Democratic alternative to Cao is a machine politician being pushed by New Orleans City Hall, which under its new management has become active in virtually every race appearing on an Orleans Parish ballot. Cao is now having to fend off both the White House and City Hall for the crimes of being a Republican and occupying a piece of coveted political real estate. Cao’s defeat and replacement by a machine politician who will no doubt get himself involved in other elections would mark a regression for reform in New Orleans.

5) Cao Will Be Able to Deliver More for New Orleans: Let there be no doubt on this point, Cao’s odds of being re-elected as Congressman are far better than Nancy Pelosi’s chances of being re-elected speaker. Obama and other Democrats whined about the way the Republicans mishandled Hurricane Katrina and abandoned rebuilding New Orleans (the second part is a complete lie). What happened after Obama took office? The Second District, the most ardently Democratic in Louisiana, got the least amount of support from the stimulus bill! Talk about not putting your money where your mouth is. A Republican Congress would be hard pressed to do less for New Orleans than the Democratic Congress did. Especially since the incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives declared Cao was the future.

6) Cao Stepped Up While Richmond Stepped Out: No other Republican was willing to put his name on the ballot against Jefferson in 2008, but Cao did. Cedric Richmond also ran against Jefferson, though in the Democratic primary. Richmond flayed him in paid advertisements about how awful he was yet when Richmond didn’t make the runoff, he didn’t support the other candidate who faced Jefferson in that race nor did he oppose Jefferson in the general election.

Two years ago, the voters of Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish chose to end the embarrassment. This is not the time to sow the seeds of future embarrassment by replacing a reform-oriented, hard-working congressman with a machine politician who will be on the opposite side of the new governing majority in the US House of Representatives.

For those conservative voters resentful of Cao’s less than sterling voting record, keep in mind that this race is bigger than a Beltway think tank’s tally sheet with the consequences extending to our state’s image and whether the old way of doing business in New Orleans is behind us or just waiting right around the corner.

For a conservative to vote for any other candidate but Cao would be illogical and irresponsible. The protest will fall on deaf ears and Democrats have been exposed around the country manufacturing faux TEA Party candidates in a scheme to siphon away votes from Republican candidates in tight races.

In 1960 there was a move by conservative delegates at the Republican National Convention to draft Arizona US Senator Barry Goldwater as an alternative to then-Vice-President Richard Nixon as the GOP’s presidential nominee.

Goldwater took to the podium to admonish the attempt to split the party in what was one of the closest (if not TOO close) presidential elections in American history, stating, “Let’s grow up conservatives. If we want to take this party back, and I think we can some day, let’s go to work.”

Anyone conservative who can’t see the national and local importance of re-electing Cao needs to grow up. Seriously.

There is no runoff as whichever candidate receives the most votes (50%+1 is not necessary under this election system) wins.

Though four candidates are on the ballot for US Representative from the Second District, a vote for only Cao means one less vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker and a blow to the full re-establishment of the political machine in Orleans Parish. A vote for any other candidate, no matter what they claim to represent, is a vote for Cedric Richmond and all that will come with it.

Choose wisely.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Election 2010: Media Keeps Burning the "Witch"

Attention Newsbusters!

I would like to drop a nickel on what might be the most insidious liberal news outlet on the web, AOL’s Politics Daily. You should consider posting a correspondent to monitor their news feeds on a full-time basis as the tone of the political articles penned by their writers is blatantly belligerent towards conservatives with a bias that is comparable to MSNBC.

Because it’s directed primarily at their 5,000,000 domestic subscribers- a number that has tumbled greatly since 2001, most people are unaware of the liberal propaganda AOL’s Politics Daily has been slinging as “news”.

But as a longtime AOL user, I see it pop up before my e-mail every day. I only peruse it to see what “spin” they attempt to lay on a story. What I’ve consistently noticed is that if it’s news that is bad for Republicans, they tend to leap on to the dog-pile yet if the news is unfavorable for liberals, they go through great lengths to find the silver lining.

AOL’s Politics Daily is a virtual “how to” on penning political propaganda.

Their most recent obnoxiously hostile piece directed at a Republican appeared yesterday, a story headlined “O’Donnell’s Constitution Question Floors Audience”.

You’d think the most vilified Republican US Senatorial nominee EVER would have quipped something along the lines of the gems regularly cast by New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino.

No such crassness was found upon inspection of the facts, no matter how the writer (whose name is not given!) twists them.

The smug article starts off “”where better to learn about the US Constitution than at a law school”? and then chronicles how Ms. O’Donnell was laughed at by the audience for asking the question “Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?”.

The joke’s on the jackals disrespectfully guffawing at debate and the unknown author of the article as the words “separation of church and state” are nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Not even in the First Amendment, which is often cited as the location of the invisible clause.

Here’s the First Amendment in its full splendor: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.

And you’re not going to find “separation of church and state” in the other 26 amendments or in the Constitution’s original seven articles.

I’d be willing to bet most of those clucking at the debate have never read the Constitution pamphlet cover to pamphlet cover (which is 32 pages in miniature form). Because the words are used, or rather, misused so often everyone assumes they’re there. Instead, “separation of church and state” come from a letter Declaration of Independence author and then-President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists Association in 1802.

Though not contained in a governing document, those words have found themselves in the minds and opinions of federal judges, the media and ACLU rhetoric.

So Ms. O’Donnell, who has been accused of being a witch, a crook, a tramp, a puritan and a political radical, was spot on in the debate yet mocked by a “journalist” who appears to be already in a pissy mood about the tidal wave of Republican victories that are expected across the fruited plain, save Delaware.

The story centered on the audience deriding Ms. O’Donnell through snickering her correct response rather than the facts that were relevant to that part of the debate.

Not leaving it at biased reporting, whoever was responsible for the article decided to kick it up another notch working in two snarky twitter cracks at Ms. O’Donnell.

Tim F. of, get ready, Dublin, Ireland- who has about as much standing to be consulted on a national race as Meghan McCain, tweeted that “It’s beyond hideous. My jaw has carpet burn. But I get it. Christine O’Donnell is doing some Joaquin Phoenix-like ‘I’m Still Here’ satire.” I’m sure that wit must win the hearts of all the lasses in the Temple Bar area.

And there’s self-proclaimed chocoholic Daniel K. of Riverside, California who tweeted “Yeah, the audience is laughing at you, not with you”.

Why these tweets were incorporated into an article is beyond whatever the comprehension of this writer who took a few courses in journalism at LSU’s Manship School except to convey what the AOL mystery political writer “secretly” thinks of Ms. O’Donnell.

The story should have been titled “Crowd That Failed H.S. Civics Rude to Candidate That Knows Better”. But I’ll see Arlen Specter delivering the keynote address at the next Republican National Convention before I ever read that far more accurate headline.

The media has done to Ms. O’Donnell what modern day school-age cyber-bullies have done to the socially awkward. Except they’ve largely gotten away with it.

Blatantly piling on top of a candidate who isn’t going to win isn’t going to retain for Nancy Pelosi her gavel or Harry Reid his job, as either majority leader or US Senator.

Even MSNBC is going to have a challenge making a Democratic victory in Delaware the story of the night as Republicans take back the US House of Representatives and reverse two election cycles in the US Senate in a single swoop.

But I’m sure the folks at AOL’s Politics Daily and their fellow travelers will give it their best.

Expect to hear the conjunction “but” a lot on the evening of November 2nd.

It's Spelled S-A-N-G-I-S-E-T-T-Y

In last week's column, this writer made a reference to the Democratic nominee running for US Representative in Louisiana's Third District. Unfortunately, I misspelled Ravi's surname "Sangisetti".

It's spelled Sangisetty.

My apologies for the mistake.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 49 State Republican

Back in 2003 I supported Bobby Jindal for governor and backed him in his later congressional bids. When Jindal announced he was going to run again for governor in early 2007, I immediately lined up behind his candidacy.

Later on that year I decided to make a run for a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives. But there was a wrinkle: one of Jindal’s major opponents for governor not only lived in my home parish but was a registered voter in the very legislative district I was running in.

Having made my commitment to Jindal, I chose to do something many of my fellow politicos thought was unwise: I took out a newspaper ad sharing why this Saint Bernard Parish resident was voting for Jindal over the “favorite son”.

I wasn’t content to do the “quiet political thing”. I felt he was the best choice for governor in 2003 and my mind didn’t change four years later. After all, an important part of being a public official is making hard decisions that might not be very popular but could very well be in the same public’s best interest.

Unfortunately for me, I ended up missing the runoff by 35 votes. Did my decision to announce my support for Jindal over the local gubernatorial candidate cost me votes? Undoubtedly.

Did it cost me three-dozen votes that would have advanced me to the general election? Possibly.

Would I have done it all over again? Absolutely.

Though it might not have been the politically smart move, it was the right thing to do.

My community in particular suffered the consequences from the results of the 2003 gubernatorial election and it was time to put in office in 2007 the man who should have been elected the last time.

So in 2007, Mike Bayham stepped up to the plate for Bobby Jindal. And now Mike Bayham is waiting for the governor to step up to the plate for his fellow Republicans.

How can Jindal travel around the country talking about the need to elect conservatives to Congress to fight the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda while refusing to travel to Houma, Kenner and Chalmette to do the same for local conservative candidates?

Thus far, Jindal, through his spokespeople, have drawn a curious line in the sand demarcating that they will not get involved in Louisiana federal elections. Why? No comment.

The apparent reason is that he does not, and please pardon this crass political pun, want to climb in bed with the state’s junior US Senator. And while David Vitter has been called many things by his Democratic opponents over the years, stupid has not been one of them…with good reason.

Vitter is perhaps the most politically cunning Republican to emerge and might very well be the state’s smartest politician since Edwin Edwards.

Vitter and anyone else with a political IQ over 100 sees Jindal’s position for what it is, though candidate Vitter has publicly ignored the slight. At least until November 2nd.

But why is the Republican governor abandoning Congressman Joseph Cao, Third District US Representative candidate Jeff Landry and incumbent Secretary of State and lieutenant governor candidate Jay Dardenne, who lack Vitter’s political baggage but also his strong poll numbers and well-stocked campaign warchest as well.

Cao’s race is a Republican defense against a machine politician backed by New Orleans City Hall.

A Landry win in the Third District would be a pick up for the national GOP and one less vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker.

A Dardenne victory would return to the Republican fold an office that hasn’t been occupied by a Republican since Paul Hardy left office in 1992.

While his voting record won’t be confused with neighboring Congressman Steve Scalise anytime soon, Cao has voted against the stimulus, cap and trade and ultimately opposed President Obama’s health care legislation.

Cao is also poster boy for the national GOP’s push to diversify their image with the general electorate and did Louisiana an outstanding service by taking out corrupt US Representative Bill Jefferson. The latter act contributed mightily towards helping change Louisiana’s image and political culture. Why isn’t Jindal raising money for Cao?

The Third District is unique in that it not only produced Vitter’s Democratic opponent for re-election this November, it was a safe GOP seat that went the other way in 2004 because of a split within the Louisiana Republican Party. As neither Hunt Downer nor Kristian Magar have endorsed Landry’s candidacy, there’s a possibility of a repeat if both unsuccessful Republican primary candidates try to spike Landry’s guns the last week of the election.

Here is a natural setting for a popular Republican leader like Jindal to step in to bring the GOP together so the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

The most bizarre neutral position is the lieutenant governor’s race. Dardenne is not only a state candidate (so Jindal’s federal embargo would not apply) but his election would free Jindal to pursue other ambitions later if so moved after re-election.

Beyond serving his own political interests, Jindal’s “Swiss-Stance” conflicts with the cause he claims to champion. If something unfortunate were to happen to a governor who spends so much time on airplanes he should be sporting a set of wings on his lapel and a Democrat held the office of lieutenant governor, then there would be an entire change of administration, personnel and governing philosophy.

Think about that for a minute. All of the millions of dollars Republicans in Louisiana sent to Jindal’s campaign and the tens of thousands of sweat equity invested in his political career by Republican activists wiped out due to a freak accident and, in the blink of an eye, replaced by an ideological opposite who has benefited from fundraisers hosted by ex-President Bill Clinton and who has not shied away from Obama.

But such a change goes deeper than who’s sleeping in the Governor’s Mansion.

Add in legislative leadership (since Speaker of the House and President of the State Senate are practically cabinet appointments by the governor) and the possibility of selecting a US Senator if either or both of the state’s US Senators left office early.

The GOP’s capacity to filibuster was changed with the death of Ted Kennedy. In the past ten years control of the US Senate has shifted by a single party change so I’m not engaging in wild political speculation here.

And then there’s support for the party. All of a sudden the Louisiana Democratic Party would have immediate control of patronage, appointments to commissions and their fundraising capability would receive a major boost.

And should we forget that it was from the office of Lieutenant Governor that Blanco spring boarded into governor?

Jindal’s neutrality in the state’s federal races borders on hypocrisy; his abstaining from the race for lieutenant governor is downright irresponsible.

I’ve heard a number of theories of why he’s staying out, ranging from the trial lawyers sudden embracing of him to a potential conflict with Indian-American fundraisers who backed Jindal’s runs for governor and are supporting fellow Ivy League Indian-American Ravi Sangisetti for Congress in the Third District.

Whatever the reasons are, they’re all bad excuses in the face of a potential political reality.

I’ll admit a conflict of interest being a Republican working for the election of other Republicans but watching Jindal hustle for Republican candidates in Wisconsin but not Louisiana would appear strange to even people who don’t follow politics closely.

I don’t know who’s giving Jindal this bad advice and I don’t know why the governor seems to be following it, but Jindal needs to start being Mr. Republican in Louisiana instead of just Mr. Republican in the 49 Other States.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Election 2010: Vitter-Treen, the Sequel!

Election 2010: Vitter-Treen, the Sequel

Armed with the support and financing from the political establishment, a long-time veteran office-holder with high-name recognition and few apparent political negatives runs for a vacated seat in the US House of Representatives. He is opposed by younger candidates with less money and virtually no name recognition whatsoever beyond their respective bailiwicks.

Turnout for the race is light and it seems like the “blessed” candidate will easily emerge triumphant.

But one of the challengers somehow pieces together the financing to get his message out and runs to the hard right while constantly peppering the favorite’s credentials as a Republican and as a conservative.

In the end, the insurgent stuns the politirati by winning.

The story could apply to either the contest between former Governor Dave Treen and then ex-State Representative David Vitter for the seat that was previously occupied by Congressman Bob Livingston or the recent election between Jeff Landry and retired General Hunt Downer for the GOP nomination in the Third Congressional District.

The only differences are that Downer’s grandson didn’t get lost in the woods before the election and Treen never lost his lead until the night of the runoff.

Both elections were political textbook David v. Goliaths.

Like Treen before him, Downer by all means should have won the seat. He started off on top and began a continuous free fall after the first of Landry’s attacks appeared in people’s mailboxes and on talk radio.

Did Downer simply assume the Republican nomination was his and that he needed to marshal his money for the general election against a well-financed Democrat?

Did he not invest in a tracking poll that would have alerted him to his spiraling poll numbers?

Did Downer not appreciate the political landscape that demanded a strategy applicable to the environment?

The direct mail and electronic media offered by Downer’s campaign could be charitably described as bland or overly defensive. In the runoff, the message was just plain angry intended more to send his opponent into the general election with bruises than to salvage his candidacy.

Downer should have read Vitter’s playbook from 1999 and understood the political temperament of the most conservative voters who dominant the sliver of the Third District that are registered Republicans.

Downer made the mistake of running a generic campaign that plays well in a general election but doesn’t excite the party base voters who tend to be very conservative and distrustful of people who have been in government very long. Downer went into a sniping contest with a shotgun while Landry targeted a small segment of the electorate.

Granted this is probably the best argument against the closed primary as it encourages pandering to a particularly crowd for the nomination while ignoring the masses who will pick the actually winner.

Had this been an open primary, Downer would have undoubtedly run first and likely won the seat. But it wasn’t and you’d think a man with his military background would have applied the most basic principles of Sun Tzu into his campaign strategy, more precisely the terrain determines the tactics.

You could argue that his paid political advisors should have known better, but someone who has been in politics since Gerald Ford was president?

As the closed primary system makes its valedictory swirl down the toilet, it has claimed one last political casualty in Downer.

The GOP primary presented a more extreme political environment since the Louisiana Republican Party made the decision to exclude registered independents, though judging from the runoff margin, even the indies might not have been able to bail out a campaign that was almost TKO’d in the primary.

Had Downer sought the seat when Congressman Billy Tauzin retired in 2004, Vitter would not be facing Charlie Melancon in a US Senate race right now.

Though a year removed from an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, Downer was well liked in the region and had his standing in the race overwhelmed by Bobby Jindal’s rockstar candidacy. Downer finished first in the heart of the district, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, and had room to grow.

Unfortunately for Downer, the congressman’s son jumped in which cut the former speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives from the funds he needed to make the race.

Had this election been held two years later, Downer would have benefited from the return of the open primary, where running to the Right of Barry Goldwater doesn’t pay the same dividends as it does in a closed party primary- though there are no assurances that the Third District will still exist after reapportionment as population erosion trims yet another seat from Louisiana.

The Downer campaign proves that having the most endorsements, money and name recognition don’t make one politically invincible. Especially in a closed primary.


Dardenne Gets Help from Villere?

Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne caught more than his fair share of grief from State GOP Chairman and fellow lieutenant governor candidate Roger Villere yet it was Villere’s presence in the race might have set Dardenne up in a strong position in the runoff.

Though the underfunded Villere finished sixth in the field with 7%, by remaining on the ballot the party leader might have bled enough votes off of country singer and Republican Sammy Kershaw to allow Democratic Caroline Fayard to slip into the general election.

While some have tried playing the expectations game to dismiss his first-place showing, Dardenne will benefit from Vitter’s coat-tails in an election cycle where Republicans are expected to exert more influence than they typically do.

Had Villere dropped out two weeks before and endorsed Kershaw, the former would have given the singer’s candidacy additional credibility, publicity and likely moved most of his supporters in that direction.

A Dardenne-Kershaw would have benefited not only Jindal, who needs a Republican to win the post, but the state’s junior senator as well by further demoralizing Democrats in the state. Though at this writing, it doesn’t appear that the governor is going to be lending any Republican in Louisiana, including his own political interests, a hand in this cycle.

More later.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mulligan #1- Fayard Running Second for Lt. Governor

It appears that Democrat Carolina Fayard WILL slip past Sammy Kershaw for the second spot in the runoff for Lieutenant Governor against Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne.

Last minute media buys by Fayard and the support for ex-President Bill Clinton helped give the first-time candidate a last minute surge, overwhelming fellow Democrat and State Senator Butch Gautreaux.

First bad "call" since the Webb election in 2006 in Virginia.

The Early Call: Kershaw in Runoff

Based on rural numbers and a split Democratic vote, it appeats country music singer Sammy Kershaw will finish second in the race for Lieutenant Governor.

Early Call: Dardenne to Runoff for Lt. Governor

Powered by a large campaign warchest and high name recognition, Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne has made a runoff for Lieutenant Governor, likely to close the night in pole position.

Early numbers show a dogfight between country music singer and fellow Reublican Sammy Kershaw and first-time candidate Democrat Carolina Fayard.

Early Call: Landry Nominated

Benefiting from a higher voter turnout, the endorsement of the third place candidate from the primary and hard-hitting negative attacks on Jeff Landry, retired General Hunt Downer improved on his disappointing showing in the primary but will fall short in the runoff with Landry winning the Republican nomination for the Third Congressional District's US Representative seat based upon early returns.

The Early Call Will Post Tonight

Will be making Early Call's on the Lieutenant Governor, Public Service Commissioner and the GOP nomination for the 3rd Congressional District. Posts begin at 8:05 PM.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Red Herring Amongst the RINOs

My choice for the Republican nomination for president in 2012 will probably not be a candidate for the position.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has shown the kind of tough leadership in an unfriendly political environment that should be emulated by Republican officials across the country.

Christie has upset the applecart so much with Garden State special interests that a leaked memo from the Bergen County Education Association (AKA a teachers union) mockingly prayed for his demise.

Christie is a rare breed of a high-profile conservative who actually holds a position of responsibility and has had to live with the consequences, political and otherwise, of his decisions.

The New Jersey governor supported moderate Republican US Representative Mike Castle for the GOP nomination for the US Senate in Delaware.

Does that make Christie a RINO? Let me answer that question with another: are Pat Roberston and US Senator David Vitter RINOs for supporting ex-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008?

Republican political strategist Karl Rove, architect of George W. Bush’s political career, has been blasted as a RINO for not embracing Christine O’Donnell and for making jabbing critiques about her electability.

Rove and columnist Charles Krauthammer were correct in their assessments that the moderate Castle had a better chance of winning the seat in November. Polls taken before and after the O’Donnell-Castle primary have shown the GOP nominee trailing Democrat Chris Coons by a substantial margin.

And it would be reasonable to assume O’Donnell’s political philosophy is to the right of general political mindset of Delaware voters, who haven’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In 2008, with their senior senator on the Democratic ticket, the First State went to Obama with almost 62%. The highwater mark for a Republican presidential candidate in Delaware since the Bush-Dukakis race was in 2004 when W scored just under 46%, seven points behind Massachusetts US Senator and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

The logic of the Castle backers, many of whom are more conservative than the candidate they championed, was that because he was more electable in a state that’s not known for voting for conservatives, Castle was a heavy favorite to win in the general election and thus would be in a position to provide more conservative than the Democratic alternative.

The position of the TEA Party crowd was half a loaf (give or take a bad vote now and then on a court nominee or Cap and Trade) wasn’t enough and that they would rather get behind a candidate who would be a good vote 100% of the time even if she had a 20% change of winning.

O’Donnell's underdog bid has become an intra-party red herring and a distraction for the conservative movement and the Republican Party at a time when the Democrats are on the ropes.

Like the Koran burning that wasn’t (or maybe was in the hands of less media savvy preachers), the O’Donnell controversy diverted attention from the Democrats' mismanagement of the economy, the problems with their national health care plan, out of control spending on the federal level, President Obama’s “own private Katrina” in the Gulf of Mexico and the other absurd policies Democrats have in-store for the country if they get another two years of full control of the national government.

Rather than behaving like Madame Defarge to anyone suspected of being a RINO, conservatives should focus their energy, resources and time on electing political insurgents in Alaska and Nevada. And if O'Donnell is their cup of "TEA", cut a check to her as well.

Instead of beating up on Rove and Krauthammer, neither of whom hold elected or party offices, the Right should channel their angst towards Harry Reid and the rest of the Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama agenda.

That said, establishment types need to be cognizant that though the results of the Delaware GOP primary might not be smart politics, it’s the bitter harvest the Republican Party’s higher-ups had coming to them for the contemptible manner they have treated the base over the years. To paraphrase a certain retired Chicago pastor, the TEA Party has come home, to roooooooooooost. And they're a more powerful force within the GOP than the country club wing.

The “if you don’t have a check, you don’t matter” mentality was going to catch up with the GOPezzonovantes eventually. And it did in Delaware.

Just as Move On "bought and paid for" the Democratic Party, the TEA Party folks are gaining influence in the Republican Party.

As O’Donnell has received a tremendous amount of publicity, party leaders need to step up and support her candidacy. She has become the mascot of the TEA Party and snubbing her will be inferred as personally snubbing the legions of donors around the country who have filled O’Donnell’s campaign coffers to the tune of $1,500,000 since her nomination.

After all, the national Democrats have stood by far more discredited candidates than O'Donnell in the past.

If you’re really upset about the way the Republican establishment has handled O’Donnell, send a check for real money to O’Donnell and an envelope stuffed with monopoly money attached to a note to the RNC and a host of other Republican campaign entities that have wasted millions and millions of dollars on candidates who later switched parties.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Curious Case of the Missing Endorsement

Incumbent Republican US Senator David Vitter’s landslide primary win in the face of personal scandal that had driven less tenacious office-holders out of politics is a sign that he is likely en route to a second term in Congress’ upper chamber.

Vitter’s lockstep conservative votes on Capitol Hill have satisfied his electoral base and his prodigious fundraising and unfavorable political climate for Democrats, particularly in Louisiana, make him a heavy favorite on November 2nd.

Recently members of the media have picked up on something that missing from the Vitter juggernaut: the endorsement of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.

Not that Vitter needs the formal and public blessing of the titular leader of the Louisiana GOP, yet its absence got journalists and politicos to talking and Jindal’s press office putting out qualified statements.

Governor Jindal has maintained over and over again that he will not seeking the presidency in 2012. Despite the national party’s recent shifting of the caucus and primary dates to later in the year, a Jindal presidential candidacy would have to be announced prior to his second inauguration if he stood for and won re-election as governor.

People should take Jindal at his word that he will not make a bid for the White House.

Now whether his second term as governor is cut short by an invitation to occupy the bottom-half of the GOP’s 2012 ticket, appointment as a cabinet secretary (Department of Health and Human Services being the most likely) or a campaign in 2014 for Mary Landrieu’s US Senate seat is up for speculation.

Jindal obviously doesn’t want to have to go on record lining up behind someone who admitted to a sin he won’t specifically describe even though everyone has a pretty good idea what it is.

You could say the squeaky-clean Jindal wants to avoid being stained by association and loathes the prospect a 2010 endorsement of Vitter being thrown at him at a time of his least convenience in the future, whether it is before a Senate confirmation hearing, vice-presidential vetting interview or a presidential run in 2016 or 2020.

It’s also been speculated that the state’s two most prominent registered Republicans aren’t the best of pals. Perhaps there’s good reason to think this.

Most people probably don’t remember Vitter’s “forgiveness” press conference that was held the same day Jindal officially kicked off his campaign for governor in Kenner, with the former overshadowing the latter. Perhaps Jindal still remembers it.

The latest official statement by the Jindal camp is that the governor doesn’t have any plans as of yet to involve himself in Louisiana federal races in 2010. This position has been nuanced a few times over. And while the Fourth Floor has staked a technically consistent position for the moment, Jindal might have only succeeded in painting himself into another corner.

There are two other congressional races of interest on the same ballot as Vitter’s re-election: the Second District, where incumbent Republican US Representative Joseph Cao has an uphill fight for re-election against Democratic State Representative Cedric Richmond and in the Third District, where either retired National Guard general Hunt Downer or TEA Party-favorite Jeff Landry will represent the GOP in a bid to retake the seat after Democrat Charlie Melancon held it for three terms.

The Third District presents the most complicated situation for Jindal as the Democratic nominee is well-financed Indian-American Ravi Sangisetty. A Union official remarked that the twenty-something year old, Princeton-educated Sangisetty is the Democratic Party’s Jindal. It should be noted that Sangisetty, while a political unknown, isn’t a crackpot candidate whose campaign is limited to paying his qualifying fee and going home.

On the contrary, Sangisetty has a well-stocked campaign fund in excess of a half-million dollars, which is going to be more than either Republican will finish their runoff with in October starts off the month-long general election with.

While Jindal’s overt help might not be welcome by the Cao campaign in the predominantly black, overwhelmingly Democratic Second District, the Republican nominee in the Third District is going to need the governor’s personal and financial support. That Jindal would be publicly opposing a fellow Indian-American is yet another headache for a governor whose first gubernatorial bid was powered by Indian-American donors from across the country.

And there’s the rub. If Jindal sticks with his position of remaining neutral in federal races, the governor manages to avoid embracing Vitter but publicly abandons a Republican congressional candidate who will desperately need his assistance, since it was a fractured GOP in 2004 that gave Melancon his thin margin of victory.

As the face of the party in Louisiana, the Republican governor is going to have to actively involve himself to bring partisans from both Downer and Landry’s camp together to avoid of a repeat of the Tauzin-Melancon-Romero debacle (or the Fletcher-Holloway-Alexander split from 2002).

Jindal needs to make what will be a difficult decision fraught with political consequences: endorse and support all of the Louisiana Republicans running for Congress in November; go with one and not the other, thus angering Vitter; or stay out entirely and bring his GOP credentials into question, leading people to wonder why Jindal will go to Iowa to help a Republican candidate but not Houma.

A fourth option would be Vitter letting Jindal off the hook, since the senator probably doesn’t need the governor’s endorsement to win a second term. It would be a nice peace offering in light of his raining on Jindal’s parade in July 2007.

Until Jindal comes through with an endorsement for Vitter, Louisiana Democrats are going to needle both the governor and the junior senator on the matter…not so much because it will torpedo the Vitter’s re-election bid (it won’t) but to make life awkward and difficult for both Republicans, though mostly Jindal.

If you can’t beat ‘em, aggravate ‘em.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reviewing the Results from the Closed Primary

Reviewing the Results from the Closed Primary
By Mike Bayham

All but one of the congressional party primaries were decided on Saturday night with the only one slated at this time to be decided in October coming less than a percentage point from being settled as well.

US Senate

Though both Republican incumbent David Vitter and Democratic US Representative Charles Melancon won their respective party nomination comfortably, it was the junior US Senator that had the more impressive showing.

In addition to garnering a higher percentage than his Democratic opponent, Vitter received more overall votes. In fact, more votes were cast in the Republican primary than the Democratic primary despite the fact that registered Republicans constitute less than a third of the state electorate while the combined Democratic and unaffiliated voter registration comprises the remaining two-thirds.

Almost 5,000 more Republicans participated in their party primary, a sign that the GOP electorate is fired up and, more significantly for Vitter, has moved beyond his “sin”.

Furthermore, Vitter swamped his combined opponents in every parish in the state, a boast Melancon cannot claim.

Unlike Vitter, who had an opponent of some political standing (ex-State Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor), Melancon faced two unknowns who made little effort to challenge him for the Democratic nomination.

Yet Melancon’s two opponents fared fare better against him, even holding the congressman below 50% in five north Louisiana parishes (Grant, Lasalle, Sabine, Union and Winn), exposing a major obstacle to his chances of winning a statewide federal race in what will be the worst year for the Democratic Party since 1994.

Melancon’s relatively weak-showing is attributable to conservative voters that never officially left the Democratic Party casting protest ballots and a lack of enthusiasm for the election…and perhaps his candidacy.

Though Vitter’s general election poll numbers have consistently hovered in the area of 50%, the primary was an impressive show of strength by the Republican incumbent and a harsh reality check for his Democratic challenger.

Second District

New Orleans Democratic State Representative Cedric Richmond conducted his own demonstration of political power, winning his party nomination, comfortably avoiding the runoff despite the best efforts of a third-party campaign against him.

Just over 24,000 Democrats and unaffiliated voters hit the polls in the minority majority congressional district that includes most of Orleans Parish and part of Jefferson Parish.

Republican incumbent US Representative Joseph Cao doubtlessly was hoping that the contest would have gone to a second round, depleting Richmond’s campaign warchest and extending the assault on the state legislator’s image.

Richmond, who enjoyed the support of the city political establishment- including Mayor Mitch Landrieu and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, goes into the general election against Cao with momentum and has ample time to unify his party behind him and replace what he spent in the primary.

While President Barack Obama is a political albatross for Melancon, Richmond made being an ally to the White House a cornerstone of his campaign.

Cao will soon find himself in a “damned if you do, don’t” situation as the freshman congressman had already caught much grief from the Right for bolting the GOP caucus on a number of voters and is about to catch hell from Richmond for not being supportive enough of the president.

Even if unflattering stories about Richmond continue to dribble out, one should bear in mind that two years ago then-Congressman Bill Jefferson still managed to rack up almost 47% despite his many well-known transgressions.

The perfect storm that produced the environment for Cao’s stunning upset in 2008 doesn’t seem to be manifesting a second time, as a major third-party black candidate in the general election didn’t materialize at the close of qualifying nor was Richmond forced into a bruising runoff.

Third District

Last week, I observed that there appeared to be a striking parallel between the Hunt Downer and Jeff Landry primary fight and the Vitter-Dave Treen congressional election in 1999; that analogy almost played out to the full early on Saturday.

Downer had every advantage a candidate could hope to possess: high name recognition, backing from the big money men in the district and hailing from the population center and geographic heart of the sprawling Third District.

Yet in a low turnout, party primary, such assets don’t have the same value as in a high-turnout open primary.

With his credentials as a Republican and a conservative challenged (snubbing the Tea Party folk did not help) and his affiliation with the highly unpopular ex-Governor Kathleen Blanco advertised ad nauseam via a radio ad featuring thick Cajun accents, Downer not only failed to win the primary but ran a distant second to Landry, who came within 163 votes of a stunning first round knockout.

Landry’s aggressive campaign style and strategy exploiting the political realities of the closed primary proved to be extremely effective. Had Kristian Magar, the third candidate in the contest, either not run or underperformed in Iberia Parish, Landry would have locked up the GOP nomination.

Having carried every parish but Terrebonne, Landry is poised to win comfortably in the runoff while Downer has no shortage of holes to plug in his campaign, most significantly selling himself as a viable candidate to contributors who had already invested heavily in his campaign in the primary.

Downer also has to contend with the argument that staying in the race could endanger the GOP’s chances of taking the seat back from the Democrats. A division within the Republican Party largely hampered Billy Tauzin, III’s unsuccessful bid to succeed his father in 2004.

Republican leaders nationally and in south Louisiana might voice the opinion that Downer “call the Hunt” off for the sake of the party, which would further marginalize Downer’s position.

And as Downer struggles to refill his campaign coffers, Landry’s campaign treasury will benefit from a major windfall as contributors scramble to get on-board further doubling Downer’s problems.

The silver lining for Downer is that the runoff will take place the same time as the special election for Lieutenant Governor and school board, which will increase voter turnout- a benefit for the better-known Downer, though even expanded voter participation might not be enough to change a campaign picture that had been deftly framed by Landry’s effective negative advertisements.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Richmond Wins Democratic Primary Outright

Based upon early returns, State Representative Cedric Richmond will win the Democratic Primary for the right to challenge incumbent Republican US Representative Joseph Cao in the November general election.

Landry to Run First, Downer Second

Based early returns, Jeff Landry will run first in the Third District Republican primary. Retired General Hunt Downer will run second and Kristian Magar will finish a distant third.

Landry Runs Away with Absentee, No First Knock-Out for Downer

Though Hunt Down turned in a strong absentee vote in his native Terrebonne Parish, Jeff Landry nearly broke even in neighboring Lafourche Parish in early voting in five other parishes, including a sizable margin in his native parish of Iberia.

Downer, who early on was considered the consensus GOP nominee, has been bled white by advertisements by Landry linking him with ex-Governor Kathleen Blanco.

Right now the only thing that looks certain is that Downer will not win the GOP nod in the first round and might end up running second. Downer could be a casaulty of the Republican Party's decision to block unaffiliated voters from participating in the party primary.

The Early Call, LA Primary 2010- Melancon, Vitter Win Primaries, Landry Leads Downer in First Votes

Incumbent US Senator David Vitter and Third District US Representative Charles Melancon have won their respective party primaries.

With the Saint Bernard Parish absentee vote counted, Melancon has won 81% of the early votes cast while Republican Vitter secured 76%.

In the Third District GOP primary, insurgent Jeff Landry made a surprise first place finish in early voting over the better known ex-House Speaker Hunt Downer.

Landry took the absentee with 52% while Downer trailed with 36%, a sign that Landry's scathing attack ads had taken a toll on the candidate seen as the leading Republican candidate.

It should be noted that Landry is a common political surname in St. Bernard and that may have also contributed to his absentee lead. In the 2004 priamry for Congress, a minor candidate fared surprisingly well in Saint John the Baptist Parish despite not spending much money, which was attributed in large part to having the same last name as the area senator.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I am going to start this retrospective on Hurricane Katrina by saying two words.

Thank you.

Thank you to the first responders, the local police and firemen, who stayed behind and performed to the fully to the oath they took when they put on their uniforms for the first time.

Thank you to a Canadian search and rescue team that left America’s neighbor to he north before Katrina approached Louisiana’s fragile shoreline and arrived in Saint Bernard Parish before federal officials did.

Thank you to the thousands of volunteers, from college students from the Maritime Provinces and to evangelical high schoolers from Oklahoma who gave up their vacation time to “muck”, gut and rebuild communities struggling to get back on their feet.

Thank you to President George W. Bush and the members of Congress from both parties who committed eleven figures of federal dollars to rebuild infrastructure and schools.

Though the federal officials initially in charge of responding to the disaster failed to adequately appreciate, prepare and execute immediate relief efforts and President Bush was rightfully criticized for a failure to demonstrate the kind of leadership that he displayed after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, there can be no denying that the president followed through on providing federal support for rebuilding the New Orleans area and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, even if FEMA officials continued to needlessly make the process excruciating.

The new administration might be around for the ribbon cuttings but it was the previous White House that secured the financing to start the reconstruction work.

A special thank you to those congressmen who stood up to the powerful shipping industry and finally closed the dreaded Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the man-made channel that destroyed Saint Bernard and New Orleans East’s natural buffer from storm surges and acted as a freeway for storm surge that was deposited in people’s bedrooms many miles away from open water.

And finally thank you to the American taxpayers. It was your money that helped rebuild an important piece of our nation.

August 29, 2005 is a day that is etched in the hearts and minds of southeast Louisianans and coastal Mississippians.

However the date that is most relevant to me is August 27, 2005 and the 24 hours period that would follow waking up that morning.

And now a look back on the 24 hour period that would divide my life into two periods.

More often than I should, I replay in my mind things I could and should have done differently in advance of Katrina. Time was short for me as I had to return home from a political committee meeting in Baton Rouge whose leaders stubbornly refused to cancel the Saturday before the storm hit. (One individual who now holds a high position in the Louisiana GOP mocked how beautiful the weather was and how he wished he would have brought his golf clubs). Not walking out that meeting was one of those mistakes.

Upon getting home and helping my family move my bed-ridden grandfather from his house in Chalmette for the final time, I went to the townhouse I was about to move out of in two weeks and tried to figure out what I should do next.

How bad would the storm be?

The last hurricane to wallop Saint Bernard Parish was Betsy in the 1960s. As a child I would often hear my maternal grandparents talk about it and pictures of the floodwater it brought to the eastern part of the parish decorated the Parish Council’s committee room. Betsy was such a part of the local psyche that a local playwright produced a popular production centered around the storm and how locals coped with the aftermath (including with the bureaucrats that followed).

Long before those affected by Katrina would claim that FEMA stood for “Fix Everything My Ass”, Betsy veterans had declared that the SBA stood for “Sons of Bitches of America”.

For me, hearing tales of Betsy were the closest things that came to war stories.

However, Betsy had spared large parts of Saint Bernard, including the house I had grown up in. My paternal grandfather used to boast how the “celebrated” cyclone hadn’t even flooded his street. And the partially paralyzed octogenarian who was my father figure kept repeating as much as we carried him against his will to my uncle’s Lincoln Town Car.

Katrina would spare only five houses in Saint Bernard Parish, which had a pre-Katrina housing stock of over 25,000.

And Pop’s house would not be one of the five.

I’d also spend some time on Saturday evening trying to talk another equally stubborn grandfather into leaving his home, though fortunately the constant barrage of pleas and protests from his entire family meant he would not have to be carried out.

Though I am grateful to have gotten out of New Orleans before the storm hit, I guess it’s human nature to dwell on personal losses that seem small in the big picture.

In terms of possessions, I was somewhat fortunate…in that I only lost 75% of my worldly possessions. Everything else was plucked from the goop and quasi-salvageable, had escaped the rising water by inches or had been crammed inside my worn out Ford Escort, which I had shrewdly parked next to the Superdome. A lot of people in Saint Bernard weren’t that lucky.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing saved from the storm was a binder of baseball cards. Though I lost virtually my entire collection, I had taken one binder out the week before the storm, perused them and then lazily tossed them on the bed I slept in when I stayed by my grandfather’s house. The bed floated with the baseball cards though they’ll retain forever a slight but noticeable mold-musty smell to them, a permanent pungent reminder of my own private experience with the most devastating storm in terms of property damage in American history.

The stuff I miss the most were the photographs. With the exception of one book in particular (Machine Politics in New Orleans), I replaced the books I had lost to water and mold. The electronics that I lost didn’t matter that much to me since I owned tube-television, a VCR and a primitive DVD player, which were destined for the ash-heap of technology.

In what was probably the most humorous moment in my post-evacuation activities I spent some time meticulously re-arranging things on my book shelves, figuring the water in my area would be an unprecedented three feet. As eleven feet of water hit my abode, the scene was the equivalent of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

“If only I had invested in some 16 gallon plastic bins”, is something I think whenever I dwell on something irreplaceable that I had lost. Right next to that is wishing I would have had more confidence in the strength of my second floor windows, as I “shrewdly” placed most of my valuables, photographs and other items on the ground away from windows that I thought for certain would be blown out. It turned out that the second floor glass held, though the foot of water deposited on my second floor made my efforts self-defeating.

My kingdom for some more time and plastic bins.

But for all the “d’oh’ moves I made, I was not devoid of luck.

First, I had the presence of mind to partake in one luxury before the deluge. Rocky & Carlos, my favorite restaurant and a landmark eatery in Chalmette, was still operating on Saturday night and there I would sup for the last time in Louisiana for ten days. A death row meal could not equal what that meant to me.

Second, that decision to park my loaded up Ford Escort by the Superdome? Brilliant move. Experience from Hurricane Andrew’s visit to LSU’s campus in 1992 taught me to avoid parking somewhere that would leave your car windows exposed to flying gravel from building roofs. Despite having a “W” sticker on the rear bumper and a hatchback that betrayed its bounty, the Escort was unmolested from nature, looter and Democrat. It even started and made the trip to Baton Rouge.

Third, there was one thing in particular I was determined to protect though I knew I couldn’t bring it with me, so I tucked a framed picture of me shaking hands with Ronald Reagan in a clothes closet on the top shelf. I got back to my place before the looters did.

Finally, there was my escape from New Orleans. Though the old Ford Escort made it out of post-Katrina New Orleans, its temperamental radiator would have never survived a pre-Katrina contraflow run to parts unknown. I just so happened to have a flight voucher on me that the good folks at Southwest Airlines were happy to honor on a late Sunday afternoon flight to Phoenix, where a fraternity brother and his wife lived. While playing Mille Bornes with friends and watching the hurricane the size of the Gulf of Mexico creep towards the Louisiana coast on the Weather Channel, I suspected that the flight I booked was going to get cancelled.

Fortunately Southwest JUST had a seat open up on the early morning flight to Arizona. Paranoia and persistence paid big dividends. Despite strong winds, the plane left New Orleans and I arrived at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor on the morning of August 28, 2005 a genuine refugee with bulging luggage containing the only possessions I knew for certain that I would still own in the next 48 hours.

Though I still held out for a shift in the storm’s trajectory that would somehow spare the New Orleans area the worst, life as I knew it would be forever changed and my memories would be divided between pre-Katrina and post-Katrina.

In a period of about 24 hours I went from standing inside the Lod Cook Alumni Center on LSU’s campus arguing with party hacks to standing the baggage claim of the Phoenix Airport.

Ironically enough I would end up sleeping through Hurricane Katrina’s worst. I hadn’t slept at all the night before and I was emotionally worn out from all that had transpired prior to arriving in Arizona though that night’s slumber would be the only uninterrupted rest I’d have for the next ten days.

My days would be filled with exchanging hundreds of text messages, arguing with my cell phone company about overages, fighting through jammed phone lines to get information out from those trapped in Saint Bernard Parish, quashing rampant rumors on the internet about the fate of those stayed behind, coordinating medicine drops and most significantly personally informing next of kin about the status of patients in Saint Rita’s Nursing Home, whose operators unwisely decided to ride out the storm.

The First Round of Louisiana's Final Closed Congressional Primary, Part II

One strategy I was surprised the Democrats did not employ in their bid to unseat Republican US Senator David Vitter was to field credible candidates against the three Republicans who won their seats two years ago without a majority vote.

It just so happened that those three districts have the three highest concentrations of black voters in the state and that at a minimum, the competitive congressional races would drive up turnout that would have a trickle-up benefit to Democratic US Representative Charlie Melancon's candidacy for Congress' upper chamber.

But the embattled position of the Democratic Party nationally means they cannot utilize elaborate political schemes and has translated into token opposition to Republican incumbents in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Districts, which is noteworthy since Congressmen John Fleming (4th) and Bill Cassidy (6th) both won their seats two years ago with less than a majority- and in the case of Fleming with the last ballot boxes trickling in. Things will be quiet for five Republican congressmen until reapportionment takes shape next year.

There are only two party primaries for the US House of Representatives in Louisiana, though they are in different districts.

In the Third District, three Republicans are battling for the Republican nod to face Democrat Ravi Sangisetty to succeed the seat Melancon vacated to run for the US Senate.
Short a collapse by the GOP and a bitter fight that spills beyond the primary (which isn’t unprecedented in Louisiana and in the Third District specifically), winning the Republican nomination should be almost tantamount to election.

Kristian Mager, Hunt Downer and Jeff Landry are the candidates seeking the Republican nomination with the latter two being the leading candidates. Downer has established name recognition from his decades in the legislature, a well-stocked campaign account and has the advantages of being from the geographical heart and population center of the district (Houma). However, Landry has run a spirited and aggressive campaign from the start, challenging Downer’s previous party affiliation and ties with ex-Governor Kathleen Blanco, whose popularity in the eastern portion of the district (that being the area most affected by Hurricane Katrina) is abysmal.

The race is going to boil down to whether Landry’s tacking hard to the right and constant swinging at the ex-House speaker trumps Downer’s aforementioned considerable advantages. In some ways, this race has striking parallels to the 1999 special election in the First Congressional District between ex-Governor Dave Treen and ex-State Representative David Vitter. Also does Magar pull enough votes to throw the race into a second round?

When the GOP banned independents from participating in the primary, the move had the most detrimental effect on Downer, who has a much broader base of support than Landry. If Landry prevails, the retired National Guard general could be the biggest casualty from the state Republican Party’s exclusivity position.

In the Second District, four Democrats are vying for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Joseph Cao in what is potentially one of the few new seats the national Democrats hope to pick up in what is increasingly looking like a tough year.

Of the four, state representatives Cedric Richmond and Juan LaFonta have the most name recognition though Eugene Green, an ex-aide to convicted former Congressman Bill Jefferson, has been rumored to have a hidden advantage through his old boss’s political network. I’ll believe that when I see it as Green as thus far conducted a virtually invisible campaign.

Richmond was the candidate to bet on from the beginning though scandal and controversy has followed him as negative story continue agonizingly drip upon his candidacy in the closing days of the primary. LaFonta, who raised six-figures though invested it in overhead, has only recently taken to the airwaves in a last minute attempt to exploit Richmond’s new-found weaknesses.

LaFonta has also not been shy about employing language that can easily be inferred to be divisive, with the slogan “Working Hard for OUR Community”, a reworked version of Sherman Copelin’s infamous “Fighting Them For Us”. I’m sure candidate LaFonta has a prepackaged “honorable” explanation for the slogan, that it somehow doesn’t mean what a cynical person who has followed city elections might interpret it to mean.

Despite the problems, Richmond maintains a number of advantages including the support of New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Richmond has also attempted to spin the reports of potential impropriety as simply a part of a grandiose conspiracy involving, and I quote, the Republican Party, the birthers, those trying to remove President Obama from office and the Tea Party folks to stop the most electable Democrat from being nominated. (while I cannot speak for other members of the cabal, I’ve never known my party to be so forward-thinking and clever in politics. Any GOP benefit would be purely accidental). And some of the sources could hardly be labeled Republican.

However, the touch of scandal shouldn’t be too much of a handicap on Richmond, considering that Democratic voters supported the renomination of Jefferson two years before by a strong margin despite his more circulated problems. If a freezer full of cash couldn’t stop Jefferson from winning his party’s nod, it’s doubtful Richmond’s mistakes will stop him in the end.

The big question is whether the contest goes to a second round, which would give LaFonta a second shot at the nomination while improving Cao’s still tough odds by further bloodying Richmond and making the leading Democrat less light in the wallet.

The Early Call Will Be On-Line Saturday Night

Checkout mikebayham.blogspot.com on election night around 8 PM CST as The Early Call makes projections based upon selected early returns before the mainstream media.