Chad Rogers has a new rant up about the aftermath of the Sixth District Congressional race, and he concludes that the seat will belong to the Democrats for some time to come.
Looking at the landscape as it is today, he may be right. But political landscapes in Louisiana are like the weather in Louisiana – wait a minute, it will change. (Just ask Ray Nagin.) And we are a hurricane season away from November.
Yes, I think Michael Jackson is posturing for something other than a seat in Congress. And now that they have the seat, I agree that the Democrats will cut whatever deal they have to keep him out of the race in November.
But before Republicans write off the Sixth District, we need to figure out what went wrong this past weekend. We lost a seat that, less than two years ago, a moderate-conservative GOP incumbent won with 82.81% of the vote. Eight-two point eight-one percent. So it is winnable. If we learn from our mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: We didn’t run an electable candidate.
If a moderate-conservative technocrat gets you 80% of the vote, you run a moderate conservative technocrat. Let’s face facts – or election results: Woody Jenkins was seen as too extreme. Jenkins had high negatives, a lot of baggage, and had proven history of not being able to win races outside of his old statehouse district. Jenkins’ divisive image turned off many Baker Republicans as well as Democrats – likely enough that it cost the GOP the seat. Jenkins was easy to demagogue – which the national Democratic PACs did with abandon – and his answers to their attacks were either lackluster or nonexistent. Woody Jenkins ain’t no Ronald Reagan or Bobby Jindal. Because of this his opponent, Don Cazayoux, came across as the more genuine, sincere, and (this is important) less threatening – no matter how much the national Republican PACs tried to tie Cazayoux to Pelosi and Obama.
Mistake No. 2: We forgot that all politics is local. Doubly so in local races.
Pelosi and Obama were not running for Congress in the Sixth District. If your main argument for votes is “send-me-to-Washington-because-the-other-guy-is-just-a-stooge-for Pelosi/Clinton/Obama,” you’ve lost the race. What are you going to do differently with respect this district is the question, and Jenkins never really answered it. Not in local terms, anyway. Both of the candidates came across as fairly conservative – no one can win (or stay in office) in the Sixth District by supporting things like abortion or gun control. If your predecessor won 80-plus percent of the vote focused on certain local issues, that would be a good place to start. Example: If you are asked a question about the proposed Baton Rouge loop, don’t respond with a 10-minute history of the erosion of property rights in the last 50 years, and how a Nancy Pelosi-led Congress must be stopped before they go further. Answer. The. Bloody. Question.
Mistake No. 3: Pessimism and negativism doesn’t sell.
Voters vote their hopes as much as their fears. Ronald Reagan won in 1980 because he offered hope. Ditto Bobby Jindal in 2007. Whenever they pointed out how bad things were, they always pointed out how good things can be. Not could be; can be. Optimists are always more desirable than pessimists.
You can criticize the other guy, but if you can’t clearly articulate what you’re for and how that makes you the better choice for the job, maybe you shouldn’t be in the race. The constant barrage of negative ads eventually turns off voters, especially if there are no positive ads in there as well. Since almost all of the Republican ads were negative, especially in the last weeks, I think this hit the GOP worse than the Democrats. One of the smartest things Woody Jenkins could have done was to tell the national GOP PAC’s to shut up.
Can we win back the seat in November? I don’t know. It will be an uphill battle like Chad said, and the Democrats will fight, and fight nasty in my opinion, to keep this seat. But unlike Chad, I don’t think it’s a lost cause. Much will depend on what kind of voting record Don Cazayoux establishes in his few months in office, and on how the Presidential election is going. But much will also depend on the GOP learning from it’s mistakes. And running a divisive candidate was a mistake.
Three months ago this seat was the Republican’s to loose. Now that Woody Jenkins has accomplished that, we Republicans need to regroup and move on. We need to give folks a reason to vote for the GOP once again in November, and we need a candidate who can articulate that reason in a hail of Democratic attacks sure to come. Who that is, I don’t know yet. But I, for one, ain’t going to give up that easy.
UPDATE: Aparrently, someone isn’t learning. Two jaw-droppers from an article at Politico.com:
Jenkins, who said he may run again for the seat in November…
They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again the same way, and expecting a different result.
And they say stupidity is backing someone who you know can’t win:
(NRCC Chairman) Cole’s supporters, for their part, are laying the blame for Saturday’s loss directly at the feet of their candidate, former Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins, calling him a “flawed candidate” who failed to raise enough money or come up with a message to beat Democrat Don Cazayoux.
Maybe Chad is right – we Republicans are totally screwed in November if we don’t get our act together. And fast.