BAYHAM: Don’t Waste Your Vote On Tuesday

Free advice for conservatives in Louisiana who have not made up their mind on the US Senate race: don’t waste your vote.

A lot of well-intending folks consider Tuesday to be a mere formality as the race for Louisiana’s US Senate seat will inevitably go to a runoff anyway thus so long as they don’t vote for Mary Landrieu, their vote for Rob Maness won’t really matter.

Had Louisiana retained its brief return to a party primary system or if there were a larger gap between the primary and the runoff, as is the case in Georgia where if no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the race doesn’t get decided until January 6, 2015, a splintering of the conservative vote would not be that big of a deal as there would be plenty of time for the contest to be reset.

However in Louisiana, voting to “send a message” by backing the candidacy of someone who has no chance of making a runoff is a luxury conservatives can ill afford as the primary is not happening in a vacuum.

There are four weeks and four days, including Thanksgiving and Black Friday, between the US Senate primary and the runoff.   Time will fly and people’s attention spans with be limited with the distraction of the holidays upon them.

The last time a Louisiana US Senate race went to a December runoff was in 2002 when then-Elections Commissioner had that relatively short time period to gallop from 27% in the first round to just falling short of 50% plus one in the second round.

While Mary Landrieu had the easy task of growing her base a bit more to get over the top, Terrell had the burden of trying to unite the Republican electorate behind her candidacy in short order, which delayed her from focusing attention squarely at the Democratic incumbent.

If you have been marching with Colonel Maness from the start, I won’t fault you for sticking with your candidate.  Considering his limited campaign finances, Maness has acquitted himself well for a first-time candidate running for statewide office.

However if you did not invest your time or money in a candidate and are trying to decide between Maness and Cassidy, then you would be better off helping Cassidy consolidate his runoff base sooner than later.

Cassidy is a conservative who only looks like a moderate when standing next to David Vitter.  While the Baton Rouge gastrointestinal doctor won’t be confused with Ted Cruz anytime soon, the truth of the matter is Cruz wouldn’t win this race.

Cassidy is an electable Republican with a history of winning tough races, having beat out a state representative to win a spot in the state senate and later ousting an incumbent Democratic congressman to win the seat he currently holds.

Most significantly, Cassidy has not campaigned like typical establishment Republican, hiding behind media buys or choreographed rallies with crushed velvet ropes separating the candidate from the masses.

Cassidy has conducted open town hall meetings across Louisiana and a trademark of practically all of his campaign stops has been a Q & A session, a rarity in this “gotcha” era of political gamesmanship when  trackers with video cameras follow  candidates wherever they go.

No matter what you might hear from a conservative talking head possessing a limited familiarity with the Louisiana political landscape, Bill Cassidy is not Thad Cochran.

As Barack Obama said, elections have consequences.  By extension, your vote has consequences.

On Tuesday you have a choice: you can minimize the deficit between Senator Landrieu and the candidate she will be facing off against in the runoff or you can be a part of the 15%, give or take a few percentage points.

As real estate mogul Donald Trump observed in an exchange he had with Maness earlier this year in New Orleans, Maness’s vote is coming straight out of Cassidy’s pocket.  And there’s no guarantee that those votes will come back in December.

The gap between Landrieu and Cassidy on November 4th is what is going to end up on the headline on Wednesday morning’s paper, not the demonstration of support for the third place finisher or the message his supporters pinned to his candidacy.

All indications are that Landrieu, aided by the Democratic early vote operation and her aggressive plays to her party base, will come uncomfortably close to 50% on election day.

We know who will be in third place (Maness) and we know who will be standing on third base (Landrieu); November 4th is about how far behind Cassidy will be going into the December runoff, as every vote for Rob Maness gives Mary Landrieu that much larger of a spread.

Vote wisely.

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