State treasurer John Kennedy entered the 2016 US Senate race the heavy favorite in a field of relative unknowns. And when the votes were counted on election night, Kennedy still had the pole position.
Kennedy was the only candidate who had won statewide office, ousting an incumbent in 1999 and winning reelection in the succeeding four cycles.
And as was mocked by one of his rivals, Kennedy maintained a high media profile despite holding an office that doesn’t necessarily command a lot of attention.
Kennedy’s skill working the free media circuit showed in interviews demonstrating superb message discipline and well-crafted twanged zingers that were quote bait for news directors and resonated with the electorate.
Amazingly there are voices in the Democratic Party and the media who believe there’s a chance that Kennedy will lose to his runoff opponent Democrat Foster Campbell. Bloomberg media posted a story arguing that the election of John Bel Edwards as governor last year proves that there’s a chance.
Apparently they must have missed the relevant statistic of the Louisiana election: Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 20 points. And as national politics follow in US Senate elections, 20 points is too much political gravity for Campbell to defy on his best day and Kennedy’s worst.
Unless the Democrats are anxious to part with what little cash they have left over from a backbreaking presidential election, they’d be wise to recognize the reality of the landscape and follow the counsel of the sign posted at the gate of Dante’s Inferno: abandon all hope ye who enter here.
Party Crashing: It seems every political observer not named Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity had something to walk back in 2016.
Several months ago I argued that an all Democrat runoff was a real possibility as the GOP side was cut up between five candidates while only two Democrats were battling for their vote share.
The trend in Louisiana was for Democratic US Senate candidates to outperform their party’s presidential nominee. This happened in every Louisiana US Senate race held in a presidential election year with one exception, 1996.
You can now add 2016, where the combined vote for Republican congressional candidates slightly exceed that of the presidential nominee.
For a while on Tuesday evening it looked like Louisiana would’ve found itself in the unprecedented position of having two Republicans facing off against each other in the December US Senate runoff.
Kennedy broke out to a big lead that was reflected in the past two weeks of polling data with a mad scramble for the second spot between Republican Congressman Charles Boustany and Democrats Foster Campbell and Caroline Fayard.
Had the primary not been held the same day as the presidential election, it’s probable that Boustany would have slipped into the December runoff or if Fayard had cut a bit more into Campbell’s vote share, creating a contrast with California, which had a US Senate runoff between two Democrats on November 8th.
A Kennedy-Boustany runoff would’ve turned into a battle of Republican cred and divided GOP national money.
However the Kennedy-Campbell face off will be a choice between two different parties and while Louisiana isn’t terribly partisan in state and local politics, the Pelican State has become increasingly so in federal elections.
If you don’t believe me just ask Charlie Melancon and Mary Landrieu.
JBE > Mitch: The dual between the two major senate Democrats pitted the state’s two leading Democratic powers against each other.
Governor John Bel Edwards endorsed Campbell while Fayard enjoyed the backing of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Not only did the governor’s pick make the runoff but ran even with Mitch’s choice in Orleans Parish.
All Bark, No Votes: For a man who received more free publicity courtesy of the media than all of the other US Senate candidates combined, David Duke’s dismal showing represented his political nadir if not death knell.
Duke’s mere presence in the race led to no shortage of headaches for the Trump campaign as the media feverishly promulgated every pro-Trump comment and tweet by the former klansman.
To combat the Duke menace, a super PAC featuring Louisiana political luminaries was created, the consideration of internal state GOP rule changes to keep him off the ballot in future election, and a riot took place on Dillard University’s campus.
All this over a candidate who garnered a paltry 3%, barely outpolling the total of perennial gadfly candidate Gary Landrieu.
It’s likely that Duke has appeared on his last ballot, to the tremendous disappointment of the media and Democratic Party who did more to get his name and brand out than he could’ve done on his own.