It’s a fairly obvious observation by the newspaper covering politics at the nation’s capital, but we thought it was worth passing along anyway. The Hill had an interesting little writeup about the Louisiana governor’s race this morning…
GOP targets Louisiana governor race
Gov. John Bel Edwards shocked the political world as a Democrat who romped to victory in Louisiana’s governor race in 2015.
Once viewed as an underdog, Edwards easily defeated then-Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). Now, Edwards will run for a second term in what’s likely to draw a big GOP crowd to reclaim the governor’s mansion in an election taking place on Oct. 12.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) was initially seen as a top contender to take on Edwards. But after publicly weighing a gubernatorial bid for months, he announced that he’d remain in the upper chamber.
So far, Rep. Ralph Abraham (La.) and businessman Eddie Rispone are the only declared Republican challengers.
Rispone has said he’s open to spending up to $10 million of his own money. But the field is likely to balloon after Kennedy opted out of the race, leaving the race for the Republican nomination wide open.
There’s a long list of Republicans considering a bid, including state Sen. Sharon Hewitt and state Treasure John Schroder.
State Attorney General Jeff Landry recently said he’ll run for reelection, but some speculate that he may reconsider, especially with Kennedy out.
Much of this is uninformed speculation. Landry is not entering the governor’s race – we’d know it if that was a possibility, and we’ve been told he’s a definite “no.” And we definitely expected the field to balloon after Kennedy demurred, but that hasn’t happened. There is buzz around Sharon Hewitt, but unless she can find a million dollars’ worth of campaign donor pledges it’s hard to see how she’s going to get in rather than run for a leadership position in the Senate – with John Alario term-limited the Senate presidency is up for grabs in 2020. Schroder isn’t running for governor. There are people pushing former congressman Charles Boustany as a potential candidate, but we’ve seen little to no interest in that possibility among GOP activists and donors and that rumor looks more like a consultant trying to drum up business than anything else.
If somebody else is going to get into the race as a Republican they’d have to have a ready supply of campaign cash, whether through self-funding or from well-heeled allies independent of the usual GOP contributors (with Rispone in the race, he’s off the board as a friendly face for GOP candidates and so are some of the industrial contractors who usually fund Republicans in state races). Plus they’d have to set themselves up in a specific role on the Republican side – namely, to be the kamikaze who takes out John Bel Edwards.
This field could use a good foil.
Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone are good men who could be trusted to govern Louisiana well, probably considerably better than the state has been governed for a long time. But neither one have proven themselves as dynamic speakers who can effectively carry a message like a spear to the heart of Edwards’ re-election campaign, and to insure victory over the incumbent Democrat the Louisiana GOP is going to need that.
Perhaps it doesn’t quite have to be a candidate. Perhaps if somebody on the Republican side were to do a reverse Gumbo PAC and spend several million dollars on nonstop aggressive attacks on Edwards the way Trey Ourso and his trial lawyer and status quo buddies did to David Vitter in 2015 that would be enough to open the way for Abraham or Rispone to walk in.
But so far we’d like to see more evidence that the current field is capable of winning news cycles over Edwards. His record as governor is pathetic, whether the state’s sycophantic mainstream media is willing to report it or not, so the material for an aggressive message is unquestionably there. But it’s going to take a compelling job of messaging to get the truth in front of the voters this year. If that means a third candidate who’s running to cover Edwards in dirt without much care whether they win, fine. If it comes via some other means, that’s fine too.
Because you can bet this race will get very, very dirty. Edwards can’t run on his record without being a laughingstock, and he certainly can’t run on how cool it is that Louisiana has a Democrat governor while every other state in the South does not. To win he’s got to make Abraham and Rispone toxic, just like he made Vitter toxic four years ago. To beat him means matching him dirt for dirt.
We’ll see if the current field, or the expanded field which might possibly come, can do that.