If you believe the PPP poll from earlier this week, there isn’t a whole lot left to Bobby Jindal’s political stroke in Louisiana – and after the thrashing Neil Riser took in the 5th Congressional District special election runoff last year, that wasn’t a colossal surprise.
But there are people who have a need to keep Jindal’s political engine running in Louisiana, even if Jindal himself isn’t all that interested. And to do that, they’re going to need a candidate for governor to support.
As neither David Vitter nor Jay Dardenne really fit that bill, somebody new needs to enter the race. So today, a bona-fide Jindal man has surprised no one by stepping in.
Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge, will run for governor next year.
Angelle said he believes he has the skill set to be a successful governor and described himself as a coalition builder.
“I intend to run a positive, high spirit campaign and bring my message to Louisiana,” Angelle said.
Angelle was a Democrat in charge of the state Department of Natural Resources when Jindal was elected governor in 2007, and the two struck up a relationship which led from Jindal reappointing him to that position in his new administration, then making him an interim Lieutenant Governor in 2010 after Mitch Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans, then appointing him to the LSU Board of Supervisors in 2012 and having him serve as his legislative liaison. Along the way, Angelle also got himself elected to the PSC.
What’s important about this is Angelle is Jindal’s guy. And that makes him Timmy Teepell’s guy.
Teepell has had a rough last year or so. He was a campaign honcho for Riser’s ugly loss to Vance McAllister in the 5th District special last year, and that came after a parting of the ways with the Bill Cassidy campaign, which had hired him as its political consultant for Cassidy’s 2012 re-election run. It was expected that Teepell would handle Cassidy’s Senate campaign this year, but the congressman hired Joel DiGrado, a strategist for Sen. David Vitter, to run his Senate race instead.
Teepell isn’t locked out of Louisiana at present. He’s handling media for Zach Dasher’s campaign for the 5th District congressional seat this year. But with as many as nine Republicans running for the 6th District seat Cassidy is vacating, none are using Teepell. That isn’t considered an accident. And with On Message, the DC-based political consulting firm Teepell works for, handling Republican Senate candidates in Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina this year it does seem rather significant that they’ve hired a high-profile consultant in the state and in a major election cycle the firm has no major statewide presence.
But next year, that changes – because On Message will be playing at the top of the ballot. Angelle will be running for a year and change, and Teepell becomes a player again. At least until Election Day.
The question is, can Angelle resurrect the political fortunes of the Jindal faction? It seems like a daunting task. After all, when Jindal is only polling in the mid-30’s as an approval rating a year after Riser lost what at one point looked like an unlosable race in no small part because 5th District Republican voters saw him as the governor’s man and rejected him.
Angelle isn’t without some charisma, though. He’s a very good speaker; perhaps Louisiana’s foremost practitioner of Cajun-style oratory. He’ll be attractive in Southwest and South-Central Louisiana, and the oil and gas industry likes him.
But can he pull enough votes to dislodge Vitter or Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne from their positions among the frontrunners?
That remains to be seen. And neither Vitter’s camp nor Dardenne’s sound all that impressed with Angelle’s entry. Behold the differing tone of their comments, though.
“Senator Vitter welcomes everyone to the race,” said Vitter spokesman Luke Bolar. “The more, the better.”
And from Dardenne, a brilliant, if a bit chippy, riposte. “I welcome Scott to the race,” he said. “Two years ago, he promised the voters in his PSC race that he would serve a full term. I will do my best to help him keep that promise.”
It’s perhaps not a complete accident that Dardenne might put a little bit more oomph to his reaction than Vitter’s yawning welcome. Most polls show that Vitter has a good 30-35 percent of the vote locked up for the primary next year regardless of who else is in the race, and that assures him of a spot in the runoff. Dardenne’s road to victory, though, depends on his ability to climb over whichever Democrat makes the race (either state rep. John Bel Edwards, who has already declared, or Mitch Landrieu, who most people think will get in) into a runoff with Vitter – where he can run to the left of the Senator and soak up a lot of Democrat and moderate independent votes to what his camp thinks will be a majority.
Put Angelle in the race, though, and he dilutes the non-Vitter Republican vote Dardenne will need to land a runoff spot. Dardenne’s strategy therefore becomes one of trying to annihilate Angelle early and marginalizing him before he can pick up any support. It doesn’t hurt that Dardenne and Jindal have never been particular fans of each other, so you’ve got some built-in factional warfare to draw from there.
So now we’ve got four warring camps, with champions aboard for three. You have the Vitter faction, the Dardenne faction, the Jindal/Angelle faction and the Democrats, with either Edwards or Landrieu fronting it.
And the governor’s race of 2015 has all but begun.