In Friday’s Times-Picayune, Jonathan Tilove had a piece on defeated 2nd District congressman Joseph Cao, who unburdened himself in wholesale fashion on several subjects in setting the stage for a future run.
It’s interesting reading. The chief takeaways from it are that Cao is going to run for something else, he’s going to run statewide and he’s doing everything he can to shed the tightrope act he walked as a Republican congressman in a hard-left Democrat district the last two years.
Whether it works for Cao is a decent question, though. Louisiana’s statewide races look like they’ll be full of dyed-in-the-wool conservative Republican candidates next year, and his congressional voting record will likely be a net negative for Cao in the primaries.
That’s not lost on the Congressman, as he takes pains to begin distancing himself from that record.
“I am much more conservative than my voting record shows, much more conservative,” said Cao, explaining that as a representative of the overwhelmingly Democratic 2nd District, concentrated in New Orleans, “my first duty was to my people, not to myself, so I have made votes that if I were to vote for myself, I would not have done.”
It’s clear, based on Cao’s 35 percent showing in his re-election campaign defeat at the hands of Congressman-elect Cedric Richmond, that he was attempting to do the impossible in representing voters he now claims to fundamentally disagree with. The quote above also brings up a question Cao will have to answer if he runs for Secretary of State; namely, why his choice to bend his personal ideology to suit the electorate doesn’t paint him as just another politician willing to say or do anything to get elected.
But there’s more in the article.
“I believe I would have won if the president did not (do that), and it’s unfortunate that he got involved to support a person whose character is highly questionable,” said Cao, who said that he believes Obama’s involvement explains why he won only a negligible percentage of the African-American vote.
“It was a vote for the president, not a vote for my opponent,” Cao said.
This one is probably true, though Cao’s real problem wasn’t the president but demographics. Better than 60 percent of the electorate in the 2nd District is African-American, and Richmond pulled better than 90 percent of that vote. Richmond got some 25 percent of the white vote as well, and it’s likely that the president’s endorsement of Richmond helped with that left-wing segment. Cao calculates, correctly, that the left-liberal white vote in Louisiana outside of his congressional district is largely nonexistent, while statewide the black vote drops from 60-something percent into the low 30’s. That would make him a more viable player in a statewide race than he was on Nov. 2.
Except Cao did everything he could to cozy up to the Obama administration, and while Louisiana voters might understand that as something he had to do to be viable in the 2nd District it’s not going to work particularly well when better than 60 percent of the statewide voters can’t stand the president. This, of course, will be brought up in any race he decides to run next year – it’ll be the easiest killer :30 spot a political consultant ever threw together.
Whether he goes for the Secretary of State job or not, Cao won’t be running against Richmond in two years despite the perception among many that the congressman-elect is a walking time bomb full of ethical TNT.
“It’s not that it’s too uphill, it’s too uncertain, because to get things done I need more than two years, I need more than four, and just to have to fight for my life every two years, it is too much of a burden on my family,” Cao said. “So, if I were to run for a seat, it must be a seat that would provide me with some stability.”
It’s understandable that fighting for your life in an unfriendly district might be a brutal political existence. But running in an increasingly conservative state with a squishy RINO record, as understandable as it might be for Cao to have that record, isn’t much easier.