Reality show, reality or movie plot?
Actually the last two, though the reality show’s cancellation might have played a role in what’s happening in Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District.
When Edwin Edwards expressed his interest in running for Congress, I thought of the movie Blaze, a film loosely based on the relationship between Louisiana governor Earl K. Long and the burlesque dancer Blaze Starr.
While the portrayed closeness between the younger brother of the Kingfish and the exotic dancer was exaggerated, the other focus of the film, Long’s determination to make himself politically relevant after being thwarted in his attempt to seek a fourth term as governor, actually took place.
Out of power and limelight, the three-term governor waged a longshot run for Congress in Louisiana’s Eighth District against the anti-Long incumbent Harold McSween.
Exit Hollywood, California; enter Hollywood South as life is imitating art and history with Edwards borrowing a page from Earl Long’s playbook and perhaps part of the script from Blaze.
Two decades since his last bid for office, the 2014 campaign has been mixed for Louisiana’s only four-term governor.
On the positive side, Edwards has polled strongly for a man who spent time in federal prison and though far removed from the mountain of campaign cash he raised against Dave Treen in 1983, money is not a necessity for a man possessing near 100% name recognition amongst chronic voters.
Ever the wily politico, the eighty-six year old Edwards has embraced social media as a means of getting his message out, particularly on Twitter where the ex-gov has utilized the very biting wit against 21st century cyber hecklers that mowed down his opponents in the previous century.
And you can bet he will be the star of any televised debate held for the congressional seat, which will get far better ratings than his aborted reality show.
However possessing name recognition, charisma and a sharp tongue is not enough for him to succeed in Sixth District of 2014.
Even if he did not carry the stigma of being a convicted felon, Edwards would have a tough time making the case that a man of his age could best serve the district in an environment where seniority equals influence. His previous time in Congress, if recognized, would hardly compensate for the short future Congressman Edwards 2.0 would have on the Hill.
Age proved to be a decisive handicap when Edwards’s one-time rival and then later friend Dave Treen unsuccessfully tried to get elected to Congress after his own extended departure from the Fourth Floor of the State Capitol. And Treen wasn’t nearly as polarizing of a figure as Edwards.
And then there is the district itself, which is very different from the severely gerrymandered competitive district that his legislature cooked up in the 1990s that almost turned out then-incumbent Republican US Representative Richard Baker on two occasions.
As the redrawn minority-majority New Orleans-based Second District has taken in many of Baton Rouge’s black precincts, the Sixth District is a far more conservative seat now.
If anything Edwards would have a significantly better chance of winning the Second District, especially considering that its current occupant (Cedric Richmond) scored a bare majority against unfunded opposition in 2012.
So why is Edwards, the man who has never allowed another candidate to score a majority against him in an election, tilting at windmills in the Sixth District?
Is he trying to do the Democratic Party a major solid by generating turnout by the party base to indirectly benefit Mary Landrieu’s re-election this November?
Or does he simply miss being the center of attention and practicing the art of politicking, a field where Edwards is unsurpassed?
Is Edwards just enjoying the ride and will jump out of the race come qualifying time to avoid the indignity of losing straight up in a runoff he is currently projected to make?
I’m still not convinced that Edwards’s name will be on the ballot come this November, as gambling is something EWE reserves for casinos not the serious business of politics.
For the octogenarian Edwards, his path in the 2014 campaign will almost certainly lead to defeat instead of a seat in Congress, but if he stays in the race he will get one last fling with making love to the electorate and a final shot of relevancy as he goes out in a blaze of glory.