Welcome to the first edition of the power rankings in the race for the open U.S. Senate seat this fall. These rankings will be monthly until the campaign starts heating up in the later summer and then they will be done every couple of weeks or so.
This is a crowded field so ranking them was difficult. But the way you can read this is that the first two would likely be in the runoff if the election was held today. We will explain our reasoning why we placed them where they are. We will also explain some challenges each candidate is facing that could possibly trip them up.
1) John Kennedy — Treasurer John Kennedy likely has one of the runoff’s two spots locked up. He has the highest name ID in the state and he’s one of the state’s most favorably rated politicians. His mostly Louisiana-based team features some of the best consultants. He led the pack in fundraising. His base in the Baton Rouge metro area is strong. Finally, although polling is irrelevant at this point of the race, he does have a commanding lead in both his own polls and the independent ones.
But Kennedy is not without flaws. He will have to prove that he is up on Federal issues. Kennedy also seems to underwhelm every time he tries to seek a promotion from Treasurer.
2) Charles Boustany — Congressman Charles Boustany would have the second runoff slot if the race is today. He has a solid base in Acadiana. His team is also good and he can raise money, both in state and out of state. Boustany will be the pick of the D.C. “establishment” and the most likely U.S. Chamber of Commerce aligned candidate.
But Boustany’s biggest weakness is going to be his voting record. There will be plenty for his opponents to exploit on everything from Israel to spending. Whether or not Boustany makes the runoff will depend on how he defends his record.
T-3) John Fleming — Congressman John Fleming has the most cash on hand. Fleming also has a decent geographical base in Northwest Louisiana. He’s picked up a great endorsement in the Club for Growth, who can both raise and spend money for him. The Tony Perkins endorsement was also a great one and should help Fleming with social conservatives. Fleming has identified has target voters and his going after them, unlike some of the other candidates.
But Fleming has also demonstrated some weaknesses which led us to tie him with Rob Maness. His fundraising was poor for a sitting congressman, but he can self-fund. While Fleming does have a north Louisiana base, the fact is north Louisiana will not be enough to put him into the runoff. He has to develop a base in south Louisiana and he hasn’t done that. Finally, Fleming’s biggest problem is that his base is in danger of being eaten away by various candidates. Maness is going after Fleming’s grassroots conservative base while Kennedy and Foster Campbell will have north Louisiana plays of their own.
T-3) Rob Maness — Retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Rob Maness is a much better candidate than he was in 2014. He’s a much better speaker and has a much better command of the issues now. He’s also probably the most likable guy in the race and he’s at the most events of all the candidates. Maness’s base is probably the most passionate one of all the candidates and he’s reaching out to different constituencies. In addition to being endorsed again by Sarah Palin, Maness won the endorsements of Dr. Ben Carson and Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. Plus Mary Matalin should help Maness with his biggest weakness, fundraising. Finally, Maness’s campaign staff is much better this time than in 2014.
But Maness once again has some weaknesses of his own. Fundraising, while better than in 2014, is still a problem. Raising under $300k was not bad for the first quarter, but it’s got to be much better, especially since his opponents have more broad geographical bases and have money in the bank. He also has the most uphill climb of all the major Republican candidates given their fundraising war chests and their geography. Finally so much about the Maness campaign is about potential not actual successes right now. It has to show results soon.
5) Caroline Fayard — Former Lt. Governor candidate Caroline Fayard was the only Democrat who actually had donors last quarter. She should also be the natural choice for liberals in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
However, her biggest problem, along with every other Democrat, is that there are four Democrats in the race. They will kill each other and make this an all Republican runoff.
6) Foster Campbell — Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell didn’t do much fundraising in the first quarter. He has a solid base in north Louisiana where people generally like him. Finally, the Democrat has the backing of Governor John Bel Edwards.
But we see Foster Campbell having a tough time making a play south of the Red River, which is a must in a statewide run.
7) Josh Pellerin — Lafayette businessman Josh Pellerin is running as a conservative Democrat. He’s already on the air in Lafayette and he’s all over the place on social media.
But Pellerin’s problem is that there aren’t very many conservative Democrats left in Louisiana. He needs to find a way to broaden his base and quickly.
8) Troy Hebert — Former Democrat state rep Troy Hebert is now an independent who has hitched his wagon to Donald Trump. He’s got billboards up around the Baton Rouge area.
But Hebert didn’t file an FEC report in the first quarter which means he didn’t raise or spend a lot of money. Also, “Pretty Boy Troy” has a reputation from his time in Baton Rouge which could come back to haunt him if he gets traction.
9) Joseph Cao — Former Congressman Joseph Cao is supposedly running too. What’s more likely is he is trying to retire his campaign debt from his failed 2010 reelection campaign.
10) Thomas Clements — The Republican turned Libertarian candidate, who is also running for president, raised and spent $0 in the first quarter. He won’t be much of a factor.
11) Derrick Edwards — The first time I’ve heard of him. He’s a Democrat and in this race too supposedly.