How long ago was it that political consultant and failed candidate for Louisiana GOP chair Scott Wilfong went on the radio attempting to drum up a client in this fall’s governor’s race? Almost two weeks now. You’d think Wilfong’s statement on the Jim Engster show that there is a “movement” to drum up another candidate in the race on the Republican side would be old news by now.
But apparently it isn’t. Not after the Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp mentioned Wilfong for the second time in a piece about the governor’s race over the weekend, and not after the Times-Picayune’s supposedly conservative columnist Tim Morris, fresh off an attack against Republicans in Louisiana’s congressional delegation voting against a Democrat House measure seeking to negate President Trump’s border emergency declaration, dredged up Wilfong’s comments in a column today discussing Steve Scalise’s reaffirming his intention not to run for governor.
As we said when we addressed the Wilfong comments, Scott Wilfong wasn’t talking about Steve Scalise declaring for governor when he suggested there were people out there who weren’t satisfied with Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone as the GOP hopefuls in the race, because Steve Scalise wouldn’t be hiring Scott Wilfong if he did run. Scott Wilfong runs candidates like A.G. Crowe and Tim Temple for statewide races, not Steve Scalise – and Scalise’s consultants, Jason Hebert and Scott Hobbs of The Political Firm in Baton Rouge, wouldn’t likely hire Wilfong as a subcontractor, either.
But Wilfong as supposedly a “high-ranking” GOP official in Louisiana is somehow authoritative when he talks about a “movement” for another candidate in the race. Why? Because he was the chair of the bylaws subcommittee on the LAGOP’s state central committee.
At least he was until earlier this week, when we understand he was removed. So much for the “high-ranking” GOP official the papers can’t help themselves talking about.
Morris’ column picked up on a POLITICO piece that referenced all the buzz about Scalise possibly reconsidering his decision not to run last year…
NEWS … HOUSE-SIDE DISPATCH: SCALISE TAKING A PASS ON LOUISIANA GOV RACE … Over the past few weeks, John Bresnahan and Jake started hearing more and more buzz that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) — the No. 2 House Republican — was toying with the idea of running for governor. We knew it was widespread Thursday when our Senate reporter — Burgess Everett — started hearing the buzz, too.
THE CRUX OF THE ISSUE: John Bel Edwards, the Democratic governor, is pretty popular, and there’s a large contingent that believes Scalise is the only person who could beat him. Operatives in D.C. and Louisiana have been approaching Scalise, asking him to run.
SO, BRES SPOKE TO SCALISE on Thursday late afternoon to see what he was thinking, and he said this pretty bluntly: “I’m not running for governor.”
“THERE HAVE BEEN PEOPLE who have asked me to run for a while,” Scalise told Bres. “What I’ve told them is I appreciate their interest, but I have a job that I really enjoy.” Scalise hasn’t endorsed a candidate. “I know Eddie Rispone real well,” Scalise said of the Baton Rouge businessman who was the first Republican to jump into the race. “I serve with [Rep.] Ralph Abraham, I know him very well. They’re both very accomplished people. It’s good to know there are good people running, let’s see what they do.”
What POLITICO terms as “the crux of the issue” is the Democrat narrative of the governor’s race. Namely, (1) that Edwards is a popular governor, which simply isn’t true given that his approval rating is below 50 percent, and (2) it’s going to take a superstar like Sen. John Kennedy or Scalise to beat him. That isn’t true either, as even in super-friendly surveys Edwards polls below 50 percent against both Abraham and Rispone, neither of whom has name ID of a gubernatorial stature yet (which isn’t a problem this far out from the election) and historically the pattern runs decidedly against “superstar” candidates winning elections for governor in Louisiana. Abraham and Rispone aren’t any worse off star-power-wise than Dave Treen, Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco or John Bel Edwards were when they won gubernatorial elections in the state.
This narrative is useful to Edwards’ camp, though, because if they can keep Republican campaign donors believing that some big name has yet to get into the race, or that neither Abraham nor Rispone can win, it’ll depress both candidates’ fundraising.
But the fact of the matter is it simply isn’t true the Louisiana GOP is looking for another candidate. The opposite is true. The party has been actively dissuading other candidates from getting into the race, because the more Republicans are running the better the chances of a crabs-in-a-bucket scenario like Louisiana suffered in 2015, when David Vitter, Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne mauled each other beyond recognition and Edwards skated to an easy election no one saw coming.
If there was a great desire for more Republicans on the part of Republicans, you’d have Sharon Hewitt, Charles Boustany, Eric Skrmetta or John Fleming, or some combination of those and perhaps others, joining the race. There isn’t such a desire.
Yes, if Scalise had chosen differently as to the governor’s race things would have been different. Scalise would likely have cleared the field and made the race an unmitigated rout for Republicans. I said as much in an American Spectator column last month. That’s not the same thing as lacking confidence that Abraham or Rispone could knock Edwards out in a head-to-head runoff contest.
That Crisp won’t report that fact is one thing – she swallowed the Edwards bait hook, line and sinker long ago. What’s more irritating is that Morris, who is supposed to be the conservative voice on the Times-Picayune staff, doesn’t talk to anybody in the Republican Party to get the truth about what’s going on.