Has Scott Angelle Chosen Irrelevance In The Gubernatorial Runoff?

Friday, state treasurer John Kennedy went on Moon Griffon’s radio show and made some interesting points…

Kennedy’s discussion of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle’s decision to stay out of the race raises an interesting point: exactly what’s his calculation not to take a position in the race?

If Angelle considers himself a loyal Republican and a conservative, and after all he did run as the conservative alternative to David Vitter, then why wouldn’t he back Vitter in the runoff?

There are lots of reasons why he would. As we discussed a little more than a week ago, for his own purposes a Vitter win opens up some great opportunities for advancement where Angelle is concerned. Vitter’s Senate seat would come open, and Vitter would have the ability to appoint someone to it. Angelle could be that someone, or if nothing else the appointee could be someone who wouldn’t run for the seat next November when the term is up.

And if Vitter’s seat comes open it’s well known that Charles Boustany will run for it, meaning that Boustany’s congressional seat would be available. Angelle would be well-poised to win that seat.

Those are the personal advancement reasons why Angelle would find it in his interest for Vitter to win and therefore to endorse him.

The other major reason is the one Kennedy discusses; if you say you’re a conservative and a Republican, then you back the conservative Republican to win the election. Especially when he’s running against the liberal Democrat. And Angelle is selling himself as a conservative Republican and not a RINO who switched parties in 2010 because Obama’s offshore oil drilling moratorium made it unpalatable to stay in the president’s party.

Therefore if he doesn’t back Vitter, it would look like two things are true. First, nothing about his campaign narrative was sincere; because running as the conservative alternative to Vitter would imply that if he didn’t win he’d want to see the most conservative candidate possible win, and then when that was put to the test he sat on his hands. And second, that Angelle isn’t a serious political figure because if he is sincere about being a conservative he would let petty personal considerations get in the way of what ought to be most important to someone holding himself out as getting into politics for the “right” reasons; making sure the place gets governed the way it should.

Yes, you could say David Vitter had dalliances with prostitutes, and that David Vitter ran negative ads.

Except the voters re-elected Vitter to the Senate in 2010, when the scandal was a whole lot fresher than it is now, and by a wide margin. And as for negative ads, Gumbo PAC has been running one with Angelle starring in it talking about the “stench” in Louisiana Vitter has spread, thanks to a rather intemperate outburst he laid on in one of the gubernatorial debates. Vitter’s attacks on Angelle dealt with his record in governance; positions on taxes and Obamacare he took, and whether he did a good job responding as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources to that sinkhole in Assumption Parish. Those are fair game whether he agrees with Vitter’s characterization of them or not, and at the end of the day they’re just politics. His hands aren’t clean where negative attacks are concerned; you move past it.

If you’re serious about your convictions, that is, and if you call yourself a conservative your conviction is expected to be that you want to see the state run according to conservative principles.

And if you’re Scott Angelle and you’re serious about those things you’re not going to look at John Bel Edwards, whose record in the legislature you certainly would have researched over the course of an eight-month gubernatorial campaign (not to mention the fact Angelle served as Gov. Jindal’s legislative liaison and experienced Edwards’ record up close), as someone who will govern according to conservative principles. There’s a clear ideological contrast between the two, and he’s staked out a position on one side of it.

Which, as Kennedy says, makes him more or less obligated to get behind Vitter.

Either that, or other people in Louisiana who call themselves conservatives would be fully justified in offering up a hearty middle finger right in his face if he ever runs for anything else – which through his unofficial spokesman Fred Mills he’s saying he will.

Angelle is intimating he might run against Vitter for his Senate seat next year should Vitter lose this race. If that’s his plan, the negative attacks he didn’t like from Vitter this year will be nothing compared to what will come in a Senate race. Vitter didn’t really explore all the connections between Angelle and Jindal, and in particular the role Jindal’s political guru Timmy Teepell has played in Angelle’s electoral efforts.

Teepell won’t show up in any of Angelle’s campaign finance reports, and that’s on purpose because if he did there would be lots of discussions about him being “Jindal’s guy.” The last time he played a public role in a campaign in Louisiana it was in Neil Riser’s race for Congress, and Riser was waxed by 20 points by Vance McAllister. Now, you hire Roy Fletcher as your campaign’s general consultant and you get Teepell making moves in the background. If Fletcher pays Teepell out of his consulting fee, so much the better.

Teepell’s influence has been characterized in many different ways over the last few years. There are people who will tell you that he’s the source of the long-standing rift between Jindal and Vitter that has played a big role in fracturing the Louisiana GOP – which based on Jindal’s disapproval ratings in Louisiana and Vitter’s having to climb a mountain in this runoff to keep the governor’s mansion in Republican hands we can say has been destructive to both sides. Those same people say that Teepell is the reason Angelle has been quiet in this runoff despite the obvious benefit to his endorsing Vitter.

Those are things the insiders talk about in hushed tones. If there is an Angelle-Vitter Senate race next year and this factional split in the Republican party has delivered the most important office in the state to a left-wing Democrat with a worse LABI lifetime score than Pat Smith and Barbara Norton, it won’t just be the insiders talking about it; it’ll be everybody. And not to Angelle’s benefit, either.

To beat Vitter in a Senate race Angelle would have to have out-of-state money coming in. It’s very hard to pull that off when the NRSC’s incumbent-protection money machine gets cranked up and oh-by-the-way Vitter’s scorecard numbers in the Senate probably qualify him for either support or acquiescence by the Senate Conservatives Fund and other Tea Party-affiliated groups. Jenny Beth Martin from the Tea Party Patriots was in Louisiana campaigning for Vitter over the weekend. Vitter would apply that cash toward a quick destruction of Scott Angelle as the unpopular Bobby Jindal’s lackey, and particularly that of Jindal’s political Rasputin. And meanwhile a large number of the state’s Republican voters, smarting from having lost the gubernatorial election and looking for folks to cast blame on, will be receptive to the idea of hanging traitors. Vitter will gleefully deliver Angelle to them.

It’s probably too late for an Angelle endorsement to make much of a difference. As Kennedy said, even now it’s about standing up and being counted according to your political principles. And at this point, it might also be a question whether Angelle isn’t just a conservative but his own man and not Timmy Teepell’s, because if sitting out the runoff is Teepell’s idea and it leads to a bad result for the state GOP, then not only is Angelle going to pay a price for that but he will have richly deserved to.



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