Louisiana’s Election Night Winners And Losers

Most of these are obvious, but some might not be…

WINNERS

1. David Vitter. Three years ago this guy was political dead meat. Tonight, he’s one of the strongest Republicans in the Senate. Vitter’s 57-38 blowout of Charlie Melancon tells us three things. First, his DC Madam scandal is over. Done. Melancon’s camp never did get the message that the people of Louisiana heard about it, processed it and decided it was none of their business. You can say we’re permissive of scandal here, and maybe you’re right. But at the end of the day, what the electorate decided was that they’re more interested in what Vitter can do to represent them than what he does in his personal life – or did 10 years ago.

Vitter will also return to a Senate that, while it didn’t flip to the GOP, will be far more heavily populated with ideological cohorts than the one he left for the campaign last month. The Rand Pauls, Pat Toomeys, Mike Lees, Marco Rubios and Ron Johnsons of the world will be much more likely to stand with Vitter than with Lindsey Graham, and as a result Vitter will find himself with more allies come January.

2. Jay Dardenne. Dardenne’s campaign was low-key, despite being blamed for “attacks” on Caroline Fayard. That was a ridiculous charge, as the Republican merely pointed out a few facts about Fayard’s history and background that were not of a personal nature. She’s a lefty, despite what she attempted to cast herself as. Dardenne also did a nice job of generally limiting his campaign to things the Lt. Governor actually does. It’s clear the voters responded positively. Dardenne won a 57-43 race which was several points higher than his people expected.



3. Jeff Landry. For a first-time Congressional candidate, Landry’s 64-36 blowout of Ravi Sangisetty in the 3rd District race was definitely impressive. Landry annihilated Sangisetty in the debates and he outworked the Democrat on the campaign trail, as the parish-by-parish numbers attest:

  • Ascension: Landry, 61-39
  • Assumption: Landry, 58-42
  • Iberia: Landry, 71-29
  • Jefferson: Landry, 75-25
  • Lafourche: Landry, 68-32
  • Plaquemines: Landry, 69-31
  • St. Bernard: Landry, 67-33
  • St. Charles: Landry, 64-36
  • St. James: Sangisetty, 55-45
  • St. John: Sangisetty, 56-44
  • St. Martin: Landry, 72-28
  • St. Mary: Landry, 65-35
  • Terrebonne: Landry, 63-37

Sangisetty is from Terrebonne, which should give an indication of how big a win this was. And despite the nastiness of the race, there was an impressive 41 percent turnout in LA-3. The narrative we were sold was that Landry was toxic and a wider electorate would reject him. That narrative was a lie; Landry won huge majorities in 11 of the 13 parishes in the district. He’s got a big future in Louisiana politics, though it’s pretty clear he’s going to have to wade through nasty campaigns every time he gets a race.

4. Cedric Richmond. Richmond’s 65-33 destruction of Joseph Cao was the biggest surprise of the state’s races, though given the size of the margin one wonders if it didn’t reflect an implosion on the part of the Republican incumbent. But Richmond did what he did without getting help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which thought about making a buy for him and ultimately opted not to. He clearly benefited from street money Caroline Fayard’s campaign spent in New Orleans.

Richmond’s race also indicated something not dissimilar to Vitter’s victory; namely, that voters in tonight’s Louisiana elections are more interested in how they’ll be represented in terms of policy than in the personal histories and/or failings of their politicians. Vitter survived the DC madam scandal because a large majority of Louisiana’s voters approve of his conservative Senate record, and in like manner Richmond won despite a rather frightening ethical record because at the end of the day the majority of the voters in New Orleans want a typical Congressional Black Caucus member, and he’s certainly that.

5. Charles Boustany. Boustany might be the biggest beneficiary of the GOP House takeover, as he’s set to take over a subcommittee in Appropriations. That, of course, could be good for Louisiana as a whole – though it’s unlikely anybody is getting much pork in the next Congress given the public mandate for fiscal discipline shown tonight. But Boustany isn’t alone; Steve Scalise is expected to get a key spot on the Steering Committee and Rodney Alexander is expected to get a subcommittee chair in Ways and Means. John Fleming is also in line to pick up a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would increase his profile and also give the folks involved in the Haynesville Shale play a larger voice in fighting federal efforts to strangle natural gas production through regulatory enslavement.

LOSERS

1. The Fayards. To have spent the kind of money the Fayard campaign spent on a special-election Lieutenant Governor’s race, when the job comes up for re-election next year, is enough to put her at the top of this list. But to have gone through that much money and lost, and to be left with the questions about how the campaign was financed which remain in its wake, make tonight a very, very bad night for Louisiana’s premier Democrat campaign funding family.

Caroline Fayard did create some name recognition for herself in this race, which it was clear she was trying to do. But getting trounced 57-43 after a poll earlier this week showed her just eight points down indicates she perhaps underperformed.

And at the end of the day, accusations of money-laundering from her father through the Louisiana Democrat Party to her campaign are likely to haunt Fayard and perhaps hamper her future political prospects. She’s likely to be back, but it’s clear voters were not comfortable with what they saw from the Fayard family. And a 14-point spread says it’s not just that she was a Democrat running in a Republican year.

2. The Louisiana Democrat Party. The Fayard campaign-finance issues are likely to land the state’s Democrats in a pickle with the state Board of Ethics, which raised lots of questions particularly when the party failed to file 48-hour reports in the two weeks prior to the election after the money-laundering issue was raised. That amounts to a cherry on top of the otherwise devastating results for the Democrats – who, it appears, don’t seem to be competitive almost anywhere. They failed to even run candidates in the 1st and 7th Districts, and outside of Richmond no Democrat congressional candidate did better than Ravi Sangisetty’s 36 percent.

We’ll have to do a full count tomorrow, but the number we’ll be looking for is how many parishes were won by Democrat candidates tonight compared to Republicans. From the looks of it, that’s going to be a very lopsided number. And that indicates the Democrats aren’t competitive on a statewide level anymore. What this portends for next year will be interesting; they’ll have a tough time mounting challenges to any statewide races save for Attorney General, which Buddy Caldwell will be a favorite to hold.

3. Charlie Melancon. We didn’t see his concession speech live, but we’re told it was an exercise in bitterness, bile and classlessness. If that’s true, then it’s of a piece with the shameful way Melancon conducted himself in the last debate, in which he acted like he was trying to start a brawl rather than offer leadership to Louisiana through the Senate seat he was running for.

Melancon’s campaign was a joke, frankly. He sent Anzalone Liszt out to push-poll the people of Louisiana and lie to the voters (and prospective donors) about the state of the race, he failed completely to offer a vision for the state he’d present as our senator, he couldn’t offer us anything more than hookers and troubled Vitter staffers and he told a lot of provable lies throughout the campaign. For him not to own up, after it was over and the result was a surprise to no one, to the fact that the voters soundly rejected what he had to offer indicates that despite what he repeated time and time again about Vitter’s ethics the reality is that there might be more questions about the former sugar-cane lobbyist and Edwin Edwards crony from a character standpoint than about his intended victim.

Melancon’s next stop is likely Washington, where he’ll probably land some cush gig as the Undersecretary of Bass Fishing in the Department of Nothing. One would hope so. After his performance in Congress over the past year and the way he embarrassed himself in this campaign it’s unlikely he’ll be able to pull a Billy Tauzin or John Breaux and cash in as a lobbyist. And as for ever getting elected to office again, he can flat-out forget it.

4. Bobby Jindal. Jindal spent a great deal of time and effort outside of Louisiana working for gubernatorial and senatorial candidates, and as best we can tell he actually managed to pick a decent number of winners with his endorsements. But if Jindal’s goal in all that galivanting was to boost his national stature, outside of making himself the subject of a FOIA request from Democrat National Committee opposition researchers to the Pentagon it doesn’t appear he put himself on the map as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, a lot of hay was made about Jindal’s lack of endorsements for Vitter, Dardenne and the state’s GOP congressional candidates. As it turned out, none of them needed the governor to pitch in, other than perhaps Joseph Cao (who was probably helpless anyway). Jindal could argue that he didn’t hurt anybody by not endorsing, and that’s probably true. But he didn’t help anybody, either, and a governor is supposed to help to build his state’s party. Jindal clearly didn’t do that, and there will be a lot of ruffled feathers for him to smooth over – and he’ll have to set about doing it immediately.

Because Jindal is going to have a massive budget fight on his hands. And in state treasurer John Kennedy, who is the most ambitious politician in Louisiana, he now has an adversary with designs on his job and a nose for media attention. The more contentious that budget fight gets, the more Jindal might think he would have liked to have gathered and/or strengthened allies among the state’s politicians and their supporters.

5. Joseph Cao. Re-election was always going to be a heavy lift for Cao, and when Fayard made the runoff and spread street money all over New Orleans it got a lot tougher. So the fact that he lost tonight isn’t necessarily all that terrible a disgrace.

But when you get beat 65-33, you can’t sugar-coat it. That’s a mudhole being stomped in your butt. It’s hard to even analyze such a poor performance. Maybe at the end of the day, you just can’t pull black vote in LA-2 unless you’re black. It sure doesn’t look like Cao could despite his effort at doing so.

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