Roll Call: GOP Looks To Run Up The Score In Senate Runoff

A piece in Roll Call this morning, citing a report in the Advocate, says the National Republican Senatorial Committee is plopping down in Louisiana for the John Kennedy-Foster Campbell runoff to build a large organization to turn out the vote for Kennedy.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is opening 10 offices across the state to aid Kennedy’s election, The Advocate reported.  In 2014, Republicans came out in masses to help Bill Cassidy defeat Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Kennedy, the state treasurer, said he has received calls from Republican senators offering their help after he won the Nov. 8 open primary with 25 percent of the vote. Campbell finished second in the 24-candidate field with 17 percent. But more than 60 percent voted for Republican candidates compared to 36 percent who voted for Democrats.

Cassidy and retiring Sen. David Vitter endorsed Kennedy last week, a USA Today local affiliate reported. The Campbell campaign is trying to use Vitter and his 56-percent disapproval rating against Kennedy, calling Vitter “a morally bankrupt U.S. senator who could barely pass a bill during his time in the Senate.”

Campbell’s campaign said offers of support are streaming in. And state Democrats are “building the team,” according to Stephen Handwerk, the executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, though he also added, “We haven’t finalized any plans yet.”

Kennedy also got an endorsement from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry this morning…

“President-elect Trump needs people in Washington to help him affect change,” Landry said. “John Kennedy is best suited to help President-elect Trump grow our economy, protect our nation and secure our values. I look forward to working with Kennedy and our President-Elect Donald Trump as we all work to improve our State and Nation.”

And from Rep. John Fleming, who finished fifth in the primary on Tuesday…

“I ran for the Senate to be Louisiana’s voice for fiscal discipline, conservative values, and to maintain a Supreme Court that respected the Constitution,” said Congressman Fleming. “The voters of Louisiana will have a clear choice this December and the choice for me is clear – I will be proud to support John Kennedy because he is the one candidate who will work to bring fiscal sanity, repeal Obamacare, and confirm constitutionalists to the Supreme Court. I look forward to working with John and his campaign in the weeks to come.”

Just about the only relevant endorsement Kennedy lacks at this point is Charles Boustany, who finished third in the race with 15 percent. It’s likely Boustany’s endorsement will come soon; if it doesn’t, it won’t matter much – not many of Boustany’s voters are going to pull a lever for Campbell in any event.

The Democrats don’t seem to have much of a narrative to offer, other than Foster Can Win You Guys, along with this business that Kennedy, a Republican, endorsed Vitter, also a Republican, for governor last year and that somehow is enough to tie Kennedy to Vitter – and that tying Kennedy to Vitter in a Senate race somehow makes Campbell electable.

Plus, there is this…

The gist is that electing Foster Campbell would be a way of Louisianans sending a strong rebuke to Donald Trump in the wake of the latter’s election.

But of course Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 20 points last Tuesday in Louisiana, so selling a rebuke of Trump isn’t a particularly majoritarian pitch here.

Campbell has other problems as well. His primary fight with Caroline Fayard inside the Democratic tent proved damaging and nearly resulted in a Kennedy-Boustany runoff, as Fayard spent a fortune on TV ads in New Orleans over the last 10 days of the primary containing an audio sound bite of Campbell saying “I’m with Mr. Duke.” That quote was completely out of context and the Alliance For Good Government, at whose forum Campbell made the statement in question (he was talking solely about certain tax breaks to businesses he and Duke would both support ending) and whose endorsement of Fayard was rescinded after the TV ads went live, but Campbell’s reaction to those ads was vicious – and blew open a rift between not just himself and Fayard, but the forces behind the two candidates. That rift, between the Landrieu machine in New Orleans and Gov. John Bel Edwards, had already existed within the Democrat Party; it might not be reparable in the short term.

Louisiana’s history of open-seat Senate races isn’t replete with blowouts in runoffs. The last time a seat was open in Louisiana was in 2004, when David Vitter scored 51 percent of the vote in the primary against a sizable field (Chris John placed second with 29 percent). The two open-seat races before that were in 1996, when Mary Landrieu barely squeaked past Woody Jenkins by a few thousand votes in a race marred by accusations of vote fraud on Landrieu’s part, and in 1986, when John Breaux managed a close 53-47 victory over Henson Moore.

This race has the look of 60-40, or worse, in Kennedy’s favor. And it will go precisely that way unless Campbell’s camp can come up with better than Debra Messing and David Vitter.

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