With Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle declaring his candidacy for governor of Louisiana in 2015, this disproportionately detracts from the chances of one existing announced candidate and should embolden another heretofore unannounced to dive right in.
Perhaps the lazy way to consider the move is to see this as part of the match for state supremacy between current Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. David Vitter, the latter already having taken the plunge to replace the former. Jindal cannot run for a third consecutive term, so to stay on top of things he must resort to a surrogate, the thinking goes, and with Angelle having been a Jindal cabinet appointee, temporary lieutenant governor, and legislative go-between for the governor he fits the bill.
Assuredly that’s part of it, but Angelle put himself out there primarily because he thinks he can win without being (overall) a rigidly principled conservative like Jindal. It’s tempting, but ultimately reductionist, to write off Angelle as a Jindal clone. Recognize that Angelle came to politics in the state from an insider’s family, and as a Democrat, whose outward conservatism one senses doesn’t quite match Jindal’s all-his-life unshakeable fervency but more opportunistically as in the mode of several ex-Democrat legislators who as soon as Republicans came within sniffing distance of a legislative majority jumped ship. His actions on the PSC seem to confirm that, where he’s demonstrated he will defect strategically from a pure free-market, anti-crony capitalist, right-sized government agenda.
As such, the space in the field he really crowds the most is not Vitter’s, whose ability to balance principled conservatism with its less-principled populist cousin is nonpareil in Louisiana’s political history, but that of Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose flexibility from conservatism lends itself towards attracting crony capitalists and moderates who stake their worldviews on pragmatism leading to the best government before ideology. Like Dardenne, Angelle can convey the aura of someone who rejects dogmatic conservatism, which extends his reach towards the political center instead of the right flank and tends to attract the interest of political insiders of both parties.
At the same time, conservatives turned off by Vitter’s abrasive style and/or who for whatever reason allow their personal feelings concerning Vitter’s “serious sin” admission of 2007 to override their satisfaction of ideological congruence with him or who see Angelle as the allied with their preferred Republican Party faction will gravitate towards an Angelle candidacy, so he siphons support from Vitter as well, just not as much. But that well may be enough to get the attention of the Great Dane, Treas. John Kennedy, and thereby to push him into the contest.
Kennedy, an oft-discussed contender who does nothing to discourage that impression yet has not committed, with just Vitter and Dardenne as the only significant Republicans in the race faced a distinct disadvantage. With Dardenne able to grab the “moderate” space and Vitter both the principled and populist conservative ideological areas in the electorate, the populist conservative Kennedy, who also was a Democrat until about the time Vitter made his vague confession and had run three years earlier as a liberal populist for the Senate, didn’t have much room in which to insert his candidacy.
He still doesn’t. However, while Angelle takes some voters from Vitter but more from Dardenne, he doesn’t narrow Kennedy’s potential in any way. Relatively speaking then, Kennedy becomes a stronger candidate with Angelle in the race. If Vitter’s and Dardenne’s support becomes degraded with Angelle in, Kennedy if jumping in becomes more likely to make a runoff.
It’s tough to say whether Angelle’s joining the fray helps the only declared Democrat in the field, state Rep. John Bel Edwards. On the one hand, any action that causes deterioration to both Dardenne’s and Vitter’s totals only helps him relatively in getting to the runoff. But on the other hand, Angelle’s cross-party connections can attract moderate Democrats who otherwise without him there would feel compelled to vote for Edwards over any other Republican.
As always when more than a year out, intentions made then may not last even up until qualifying. But as things stand, Dardenne is the loser with the entry of Angelle, and Kennedy gets invited to bring even more chaos, wackiness, and intrigue to the 2015 governor’s race.