SADOW: What The Heck Is Paul Hollis Thinking?

Quixotically, state Rep. Paul Hollis has launched himself into the U.S. Senate race of next year. Unless he’s entirely misreading the political environment, it can’t be because he thinks absent something on the order of a miracle he can win.

The Republican is entering his third year as a legislator, and during that period he scored last year 70 and his initial year 85 on the Louisiana Legislature Log’s ideology/reform index, where higher scores indicate more fealty to a conservative/reformist agenda. This averages out as among the highest in this period. But with just two years as an elected official, a just opened federal campaign account and his state equivalent having fewer than $5,000 as this year began, the obvious question to ask is why he’s running if he thinks he can win.

With Rep. Bill Cassidy already in the contest, and at last count his having about $3.5 million in the bank, Hollis must know that he stands to draw nothing close to that in 10 months as an alternative GOP contender – and also be able to compete for money against incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu as well. Hollis isn’t hurting as far as family wealth goes, but he must know that he would have to commit likely millions of his own resources into the campaign to be competitive.

And even if he cobbled together those resources it’s a longshot, because it’s not like there’s policy space Hollis can present himself to voters in which has yet to be filled. Cassidy’s American Conservative Union lifetime voting score through 2012 places him as more conservative that the typical Republican representative. So conservatives are really going to vote for a guy with little track record who with difficulty could claim he’s more to the right than someone else who’s served five years at the national level, who’s got the resources to compete against an experienced incumbent, and who’s better than almost any national GOP candidate in this cycle in experience to exploit credibly Landrieu’s gaping vulnerability courtesy of the self-immolating Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? He might be as every bit conservative as Cassidy, perhaps even more, but those who potentially would donate or assist in campaigning for him surely don’t see him as nearly electable and as essentially interchangeable on the issues with Cassidy, so there’s no incentive for them to back him.

So if there are some political elites or consultants out there telling him he has any realistic chance, he’s getting bad advice. However, getting in possibly relates to a desire stemming from other ambitions. Yet if he thinks this would raise his profile for a state Senate run in 2015, he would be up against an incumbent expected to run, or if for statewide office those look like they either will have plenty of competition or incumbents who can win (the only one who looks vulnerable at this point, Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell, in in a position to which Hollis doesn’t have the required law degree and practice). Rep. Steve Scalise looks as if he can keep his seat in the U.S. House as long as he likes. If this is a bid to raise his profile, it would be an odd way if one sought a slot on either the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education or the Public Service Commission, and way overkill if you eyed a local elected position.

Again given clarity in assessing his situation, discounting any realistic chance to win given the costs and dynamics and the ineffectiveness of this strategy to promote future ambitions, we’re left with ego to explain this move. He wouldn’t be the first to jump in this race suffering from a combination of delusion in electability and of desire to publicize himself, if this is the case.

We’ll see how long this lasts. His legislative record suggests he would make a good senator, and undeniably an improvement over the current stiff. But, given the dynamics of Cassidy as a candidate and the resources he brings to bear, Hollis’ odds of winning are lengthy, to say the least.

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