SADOW: Mitch’s Big Win May Have Him Running For Governor Soon

The past pair of elections for New Orleans mayor set up intrigue, because in both instances then-Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu ran and a victory meant statewide ramifications upon his leaving that office. But in 2014 as mayor, his ability to retain that office does the same.

That’s because some argue reelection may encourage Landrieu into a bid for statewide office, almost certainly the governor’s post, in 2015. Democrat officials hope so, because they widely (if privately) believe he is the only one who could be competitive against a field already with a strong Republican, Sen. David Vitter, and with another as strong who has all but formally announced a bid, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, with perhaps other competitive GOP candidates to follow.

As Democrats are the distinct minority among the statewide elective boards (the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education), the top judicial organ (the Louisiana Supreme Court), and entirely absent among state officeholders, just to snare even get one post, especially the one at the top, is enough to make them salivate. However, even with a Landrieu win tonight, such a Pavlovian reaction likely is unwarranted, if foremost because Landrieu might pass on it.

For some good reasons.

First, as previously noted, should his sister Sen. Mary Landrieu survive reelection even as her chances appear increasingly fleeting, Mitch will be handicapped; as some voters who might otherwise give him good consideration will dismiss his candidacy out of hand because they will feel queasy at having two from the same family in such powerful state positions. While Mitch might be able to offset this by arguing that, next to a certain real estate agent who solicits, from a political standpoint, questionable transactions, he’d be the guy closest to the ear of the state’s senior senator, it would be a net loss of voters to him. Fewer perhaps if, as a victory by her probably portends that Democrats retain control of the Senate and she can claim membership in the ruling party, compared to her not being in office, but it’s a net loss that he might feel moots any chance of winning.

Of course, her not being there may not be the best thing, either, not because it will take away votes, but that it signals the Landrieu name, given statewide trends, has lost too much potency to help Democrats politically. If in fact she suffers a relatively large defeat, it might indicate to Mitch that any statewide race is too toxic for any Democrat, and he would defer.

He might also defer if she loses in favor of trying to get back for the family and Democrats the other Senate seat, because that spot might actually have weaker Republican candidates running than those for governor. With two years having gone by since her defeat, some of the stigma that would have to be there to cause her defeat will have eroded, and the competition he would face likely would be less intense. He can’t very well run for the Senate in 2016 after having run for governor in 2015 (after having won mayoral reelection in 2014). If he intends to win in 2015 (otherwise, why run if you don’t think you can win) because that will eat up too many resources for 2016, so he well may pass in 2015 to set himself up for 2016.

Which points out another disincentive for Landrieu to make the 2015 race, in that almost immediately he would have to crank up another campaign. He’s not in bad money shape after this effort; his last report prior to the primary had him just below $900,000 left over, which is enough to get started without being substantially behind the likes of any member of the presumed GOP contingent. But all of his major presumed opponents have a head start in organizing and raising funds. Again, like having Mary in office it’s not terminal to his chances, but a small negative that compounded with by far the biggest might put him off.

And that is that the idea that Landrieu can win the most important statewide office is a fool’s errand. Throw out his second-in-command victories, for few people really understand or care what the lieutenant governor does. Put him up for governor against quality conservatives where voters do care and he loses a tremendous portion of the white vote he gained in those previous wins. These tell us next to nothing about his competitiveness in gunning for the top office.

Nor do his mayoral triumphs, because the Orleans Parish electoral environment is so entirely deviant and atypical of the state. It is 48.1 percent black Democrat, just 13.1 percent white Democrat, and only 11.4 percent Republican, compared to figures respectively of 24.7, 21.4, and 27.7 statewide. These local figures produce the bubble-like world of Orleans politics where, of the three parish-wide contests and seven city races (leaving two Democrats unopposed), exactly one Republican contested (a council seat). Given these choices, and specifically for the mayor’s job facing two black candidates from the hard left, Landrieu will have captured the votes of a number of people who made lemonade out of lemons and never would consider voting for him statewide if they had just one reliably Republican alternative.

Additionally worth noting is that Landrieu’s victory was less impressive by the numbers than four years ago – and that was with a Republican opponent who drew 5 percent of the vote – with a slightly smaller proportion of the vote with many fewer opponents and tens of thousands fewer voting in all. Together, all of this demonstrates that if Super Mitch were to attempt a return to Krypton, his political power will seem ordinary, if even that, as compared to dominating on Earth.

Still, Democrats are desperate, making them so willing to open the checkbooks and their pleas pumping up his already over-healthy ego, there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting in his campaign account with nothing to do (as he now is term-limited for mayor, although he could use it for a Senate run), and he stays mayor win or lose for anything else. His sister’s electoral showing will be crucial to any decision he makes, but all things equal at this time, expect him to go for it, even if at this time he has little chance of winning.

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