Author of columns that appear next to mine in his newspapers, publisher Sam Hanna has an interesting review of the future of perhaps another gubernatorial contender, or even Senate contender, as Louisiana’s campaign cycle gets going.
While other candidates for the state’s top office, such as state Rep. John Bel Edwards, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and now the latest Treasurer John Kennedy, have admitted if not volunteered interest in the job, and Sen. David Vitter allows speculation of his interest in it to run rampant, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, as Hanna demonstrates by his piece, gets mentioned as a possibility but never himself addresses the subject. As a candidate who has won as both a Democrat and Republican from the local to state level, Angelle has shown broad electable appeal and has done little on the issues to disqualify him from getting conservative support in a right-of-center state.
The coy Vitter would be the favorite were he to announce, given his strong conservative support among both the principled and populist winds of the party that would eat at the populist’s Kennedy’s support, that has led no other principled conservative to contest to this point, and would leave too little left over for the moderate conservative Dardenne with the liberal Edwards in the race. Angelle could take support further from Dardenne but he also could gather principled conservative support that otherwise would coalesce around Vitter.
Whether it would be enough to win is another matter, and Hanna broaches that instead Angelle could challenge Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has made a political career of appearing as a liberal wolf ina moderate sheep’s clothing. Dardenne already has ruled out a Senate run, Kennedy lost to Landrieu in 2008, Edwards would not challenge his incumbent fellow Democrat, and Vitter’s already got that job. Perhaps best of all of them Angelle could make nominal conservatives forget Landrieu’s blandishments, Hanna argues, and provide the GOP’s best hope at getting sweeping every statewide elective office.
But the problem is that for the Senate it’s late in the game given resources needed, with qualifying for office barely a year away, and already has emerged in it a high-profile Republican challenger with significant commitments, Rep. Bill Cassidy. Landrieu has signaled she will beat the bushes for more money than ever to keep secure her precarious perch, while at this point Cassidy is well ahead of Kennedy and other past GOP contenders in his own fundraising and shows of support. Angelle, just having secured his present office just months ago, with just over $100,000 left in the coffers at the end of last year, would be at a distinct disadvantage in what should be a monetary record-shattering, and then some, contest.
However, where Angelle could slot in perfectly is to take Cassidy’s place in a contest where he might become the instant favorite in, it having drawn to this point political unknowns. Other elected officials such as a recent party-switching legislator might be interested, but the sense is Angelle starts off with more name recognition and activist support, including potentially extensive resources with a likely backing by Gov. Bobby Jindal, who for Senate already has reason not to oppose Cassidy.
Naturally, it’s tricky in getting right the timing. If Angelle doesn’t run for Senate, he perhaps gives up a victory there, but if he does and loses, despite the name recognition gain he might have depleted his resources enough to let a potential win slip away for governor. And that obviously leaves him out of a potentially more winnable House race. Yet if he deferred on the federal contests to save it all for the governor’s race, that still might give up his best shot of shots for advancement from the PSC. And there are other permutations still; if Dardenne and/or Kennedy do run for governor, he would be a formidable candidate to replace either of them, but would these lackluster offices be enough for him.
In political handicapping, there’s much to be said for going with a bird in the hand than hoping to get two in the bush. Cassidy’s House spot is more immediate and takes path of least resistance at this time. An expected win could set him up for a gubernatorial run in five or nine years (voters might not look kindly on a run a year later, which signals too much ambition); he’d only be 60 if the latter. Or depending on the vagaries of politics surrounding Jindal, he might find himself promoted in 2016 to senator should Vitter run for and win the year previous the right to occupy the Governor’s Mansion, giving him a leg up to win the subsequent special election at the end of the year. A surprising loss and he still could rally in time, if available, for the less important offices vacated by Dardenne and/or Kennedy, and also get settled in for pursuing progressive ambition in the years ahead (this loss would disqualify him from a gubernatorial run as potential supporters would be discouraged by that showing for the far more consequential post).
It’s a leap from PSC to getting elected to meaningful statewide office; considering the last time it happened resulted in Gov. Huey Long, voters might really think twice about somebody asking for the same boost upwards. A few terms in the U.S. House isn’t such a bad place to start before winning statewide election, as Vitter and Jindal can attest. If Angelle is ambitious, that seems at this juncture his best, most achievable strategy, and one which maximizes the chances and numbers of GOP victories.