Rep. Vance McAllister, upon announcing a reversal of his previous decision not to run for reelection, in effect forced Democrats to make a decision and threw something into the Republican Party’s punchbowl.
This space being devoted to political analysis, it will eschew the more gossipy speculation about McAllister’s stated primary motivation for the turnaround, that his wife, whom he cuckolded some months ago, told him that the district’s constituents deserved his representation so that he should not unilaterally remove himself from their adulation. No doubt many a journal article will be written by marriage counseling professionals concerning the amazing speed at which this marriage found repair, the need for achieving this being the reason McAllister once gave for eschewing reelection, so that McAllister and his wife once again could tackle the unglamorous, penurious, and empty social life and standing that comes with being a Member of Congress and a spouse of one.
While comparisons between McAllister and Sen. David Vitter will get made in judging McAllister’s chances of success, the accurate ones will note the considerable dissimilarities. Vitter, who admitted to a “serious sin” believe to be consorting with prostitutes, made the announcement many years after the alleged last act, from which time he appeared to have behaved in this department without reproach. It also came after several years of service in Congress that his constituents on the whole found more than satisfactory, and three years before he ran for reelection.
By contrast, McAllister has had but a cup of coffee in Washington with no accomplishments to his name, his dalliance ended only months ago (followed by the resignation of the married female staffer after revelation of their trysts), and his reelection attempt approaches in four months. But perhaps worst of all, a major theme of his successful special election campaign was he was not a Washington politician that could bring good, clean living to the joint, and so what is the first thing he does after getting there? Just like the worst stereotype, he acquires a mistress.
Nevertheless, while he will not have nearly the support he did last time precisely because many voters will see him as a betrayer and fraudulent, given the current configuration to the contest, he is not a longshot to retain his post. To date, only almost totally unknown Republicans and a Libertarian have entered the race. If this turns out to be the field, he has a fighting chance.
Part of his advantage is that the well has become poisoned to candidates that projected the aura that he tried when he first ran. Now, voters might find some comfort in a seasoned candidate who has held some kind of non-minor elective office and none of these fit that bill. And while his ability to self-finance a campaign this time around is crimped and he might find his troubles don’t exactly vacuum money in, he does have as a resource incumbency (even if somewhat tarnished). But these considerations are merely the kind that might push McAllister over the goal line.
What could get him there is that there is as yet no Democrat in the contest (UPDATE: Monroe mayor Jamie Mayo, who polled 15 percent in last year’s special election to finish third, officially entered the race this week). The theory here would be that snaring McAllister for an occasional vote their way here and there brings a greater return than the lengthy odds of getting one of their own in who will vote their way always. With a base vote of about 40 percent and with activists urging a vote for McAllister, it wouldn’t take a lot of forgiving Republicans to put him over the top.
Whether that strategy best would play out for Democrats is another matter. If they were not to run a candidate, they might miss out on a once-in-a-generation chance to grab the seat for themselves. Politically wounded as he is, if they united behind a single candidate they might draw him in the runoff with theirs, and enough disaffected Republicans could defect to give that Democrat the win. It seems that decision has been made in favor of reaching for a win with the impending entrance of former candidate Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo into the race.
Yet while that political calculus is unclear, entirely transparent is that unless one or more of the other candidates in the contest can develop a widespread and convincing message to voters of their conservatism, and/or until a quality candidate of that nature not yet in the running takes the plunge, regardless of whether a Democrat runs McAllister has a decent chance of making the runoff and almost certainly would without a Democrat running, which means he could ace out an unsullied conservative Republican from winning the seat. Either those announced candidates need to get it together and fast, or somebody of their ideology with meaningful and recent elective experience, resources, and drive needs to get into the race, and now, in order to prevent this.