…which is that there seems to be a growing consensus among people “in the know” which says that John Kennedy will be the candidate the GOP runs against John Bel Edwards in the next statewide election cycle.
Kennedy has a colossal ace in the hole as the various hopefuls consider their options – namely, that if he wins he’ll be able to appoint his successor in the Senate and said appointee will get to hold the office for nearly three years before running for re-election. That’s a colossal amount of incumbency to confer on someone before he or she would be forced to face the voters. And that’s a whole lot of time to engage in fundraising before having to mount a re-election campaign. So much time, in fact, that the war chest such a successor could pile up would make a 2022 challenge a daunting, and perhaps discouraging, uphill climb.
Lots of people have considered Attorney General Jeff Landry as the most likely Republican challenger to Edwards in 2019. The story goes that Kennedy might offer the Senate seat to Landry, who served a term as the Congressman from the now-vanished 7th District from 2011-2012 and was the darling of Louisiana’s conservatives during that time, in return for Landry’s support. That’s a deal Landry might well take if offered – if he ever had designs on a Senate seat he couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.
Or if not, Kennedy could offer the seat to Rep. Garret Graves, who a lot of people believe will eventually hold it (or the other Senate seat from Louisiana) eventually. Graves is rising quickly on the House side, though, and he has a well-defined agenda of straightening out Louisiana’s complex relationship with the federal government with respect to issues like infrastructure, disaster recovery, coastal restoration, the Army Corps of Engineers and various other matters.
There are reasons to be less than excited about Kennedy copying the once-unthinkable trail David Vitter blazed; namely, climbing down from the Senate in order to run for governor. It’s more typical to do the opposite, and from the standpoint of a voter one would hate to waste three years of seniority on Capitol Hill by having a senator run for governor. That said, with Kennedy there is no question the GOP would be running its most accomplished and established, not to mention popular, political figure against a Democrat incumbent who by 2019 should be vulnerable but perhaps not defenseless.
In any event, Kennedy would seem to have the best chance of all the potential Republican challengers to beat Edwards. He’s not the only one who could win, but there is a sense that he’s the closest thing to a sure bet. And among the state’s Republicans, there is also a sense that under no circumstances can Edwards be allowed to win re-election – if it takes deals cut in a smoke-filled room to prevent a repeat of the internecine warfare that produced Edwards as the governor in 2015, so be it.
There will be one candidate around which the GOP will unify, that conventional wisdom goes, and only one. And if Kennedy wants the job, he’s in a position to be that man.