Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Thursday, November 6th, 2008
By Jim Brown
After a day of letting Louisiana electoral results sink in, it’s time to assess the winners and losers. As is often the case, Louisiana went “against the grain” and was far out of sync with national trends. The new president received less than 40% of the vote in Louisiana, one of the lowest percentages in the nation, and only 15% of the state white vote. Outside of the big Landrieu senate victory, republican strengths dominated throughout the state, putting Louisiana outside the mainstream. Again, this is nothing new. So who won, who lost, and who was a spoiler in the political mix?
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu – National Republicans sunk a ton of money into this race with high expectations. Landrieu had been singled out as the most vulnerable senate Democrats in the country. But her opponent, Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy, really never made a race of it. Landrieu wasted no time allowing Kennedy to define himself. She took off after him from the get-go painting Kennedy as a flip flopper, and pointing out that he had run for the same office as a liberal Democrat four years earlier. The charge stuck, and Kennedy had no choice but to go negative.
Efforts to paint Landrieu as a liberal were defused when she pointed out that she had voted with the President and Republicans 56 percent of the time. Kennedy’s television spots, put together by out-of-state consultants, were all over the board, with no central message. With the new Democratic President, a Democratic controlled Senate, and lots of seniority, Landrieu now has the opportunity of being a major powerbroker in Washington. Louisiana has not seen this kind of clout since back in the days of Senators Russell Long and Bennett Johnston.
Governor Bobby Jindal – The Republican Party took a big hit nationwide, and political pundits wasted no time calling for re-evaluation and movement towards new faces. From this point forth, discussion about the future of the Republican Party will include Bobby Jindal. What about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.? She proved as much a liability on the McCain ticket as she was a positive rallying force for the right wing of the party. Jindal shares her philosophy, but is more articulate, has less baggage, and more potential to grow. He would be in a position to force his party to actually find an election strategy beyond trying to scare the hell out of us every four years. He has to assess a massive time commitment involved in a national campaign, and whether the nomination will be worth the effort four years now. This of course relies on how popular the new president will be just prior to the next election.
Jindal also has to watch his back side in Louisiana. There is a looming deficit approaching $1 billion, and a whole litany of problems involving the state’s infrastructure, healthcare, education….. the list goes on and on. The Governor has set out a busy travel schedule in the weeks to come around the country. But if he falls short in firmly grappling with a laundry list of state problems, his national aspirations will be for naught.
And then there is Mary. Jindal apparently felt that party duty required him to come to the defense of Kennedy’s faltering senatorial campaign, and endorse him. Up until this election, Jindal has stayed out of other state elections. So the Senator is miffed along with the guy behind Jindal in secession, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu. It doesn’t help Jindal’s agenda to have the Landrieu gang plotting behind his back.
If the Governor wants to see a prime example of how failing to patch up hard feelings can come back and haunt you, he needs to only look close at home to the sixth district congressional race. Incumbent Don Cazayoux was elected in a special election just months ago, and was expected to have an easy race for re-election. In the democratic primary during his successful race, Cazayoux defeated Representative Michael Jackson, who is African-American. Cazayoux at the time was facing a tough general election race against former legislator Woody Jenkins.
I ran into Cazayoux two weeks after his primary victory, and inquired if he had sat down with Jackson. He said not yet. Jackson has run a strong second in being defeated by Cazayoux and was a popular figure in the African-American community where Cazayoux would need strong runoff support. He should have been on Jackson’s doorstep the morning after the election to make peace. His failure to make amends was a major factor in Jackson running as an independent on Tuesday. Republican State Sen. and Dr. Bill Cassidy got the victory this week but only pulled 48% of the vote against both Cazayoux and Jackson. It wasn’t a Cassidy victory so much as a Cazayoux loss. Cazayoux’s failure to get Jackson to support him rather than running against him caused the Congressman to incur a defeat rather than what might have been an easy victory.
In the last few months of the presidential election, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s national campaign has been undermined in Alaska by criticism and investigations from her political opponents. Lessons learned here. Bobby, pick up the phone and call Mary. On election night in 2012, you might be glad you did.
And a big loser in Tuesday’s national election? Tina Fey. The Saturday Night Live star could have made a whole career with her dead on imitation of Sarah Palin. A heartbeat away from the Presidency for the next four tears. Plenty of material to keep us was laughing.
But the biggest losers in Louisiana were the taxpayers. State employees were given the day off to go vote. Polls are open for 14 hours, and very few voters had any lengthy wait in line. Everyone else who showed up at the polls was able to go to work, balance all their other commitments, and still vote in a record turnout. But state employees were given the day off at a cost to taxpayers of some $10 million.
Finally, the one I’ll miss most is the guy who jumped out of obscurity and became a symbol of the GOP’s blue-collar support. Joe the Plumber, whose real name is no longer relevant, disappeared Wednesday, never to be heard from again. But guess what Joe. You make less than $250,000, so you know what that means. Ka-ching!
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published in a number of newspapers and websites throughout Louisiana. You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at www.jimbrownla.com. Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.