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.