The Louisiana Democrats’ 2011 Savior: John Georges?

It’s possible.

Georges is running this fall, and seeing as though he just gave himself $10 million for a “statewide” campaign he’s going to be running for governor. You don’t stake your campaign for that much cash unless you’re going for the top job, and $10 million is what incumbent Bobby Jindal is sitting on right now.

Louisiana’s Democrats have been begging for a self-funder as their savior this fall for some time. Their bench is non-existent and their best hope to develop a statewide candidate with any appeal, Caroline Fayard, has turned out to be a miserable, sloppy failure. That left them with two options – latching on to a vanity candidate, or running somebody like Cleo Fields who could flop a deck of race cards down and in so doing run a campaign based on earned media.

Neither will win, mind you, because vanity candidates usually make for horrendous politicians (and even worse officeholders) and the Cleo Fields race-based candidacy model has proven to top out at about 35-40 percent of the vote in a two-way race. This has been proven in Louisiana already; Georges’ 2007 campaign was the largest waste of money in the history of Louisiana, while Fields and Dollar Bill Jefferson proved the limits of a race-based race by getting pounded in the 1995 and 1999 elections courtesy of Mike Foster.

But getting Georges to throw his wallet into the ring would at least enable Democrat party chairman Buddy Leach to tell the faithful that they’ve got a candidate for governor – and more than that they’ve got $10 million to make a campaign out of, which Leach can hope will enable the Dems to turn out their base in all the down-ballot elections.

The fact that Georges has almost no appeal at all isn’t a particularly important consideration. He’s not running to win. You don’t manage to pile up the kind of cash he has by being stupid, and only somebody stupid would keep throwing his own money into expensive races he can’t even garner 15 percent of the vote in – like Georges’ 2007 gubernatorial race (14 percent, at $64 per vote) or his 2010 campaign for mayor of New Orleans (nine percent, at $550 per vote). So far he’s the biggest waster of campaign money in Louisiana history – supplanting Leach, who had the old record at $40-something per vote in 2003 when he ran for governor.

Georges also has a problem with his involvement as a board member of the scandal-plagued New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, which was in the news constantly over the course of the past 7-8 months after it was found that its staffers spent some $400,000 on questionable purchases using agency credit cards. That, plus Georges’ record of wasting money on his own campaigns, will offer an easy narrative that the last thing Louisiana (or anyone else) needs right now is a fiscally incompetent chief executive like John Georges. He’s going to have to counter that by offering a lot of left-wing red meat, which he’s not particularly well-suited to do since he’s called himself a conservative when he’s run in the past.

Nobody expects Georges to win. Not even Georges. He’s in it to get on TV and to get his butt kissed by the state’s Democrat Party apparatchiks. And they’ll happily do it for him so that his money will hit the streets and buy votes for their ticket, in the hopes that they might be able to pick off one or two statewide down-ballot seats or stave off a holocaust in the legislative races this fall.

So given the state of things, it’s a match made in heaven. At least while it lasts. After the primary on October 22, though, it’s probably over.



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