SADOW: The 2023 Louisiana Governor’s Race Is Almost Here

And, they’re off! With Republican Treas. John Schroder’s informal announcement that he’ll vie for the Governor’s Mansion next year, the highway to there has started to populate.

Schroder apparently sent to supporters notice that he will run, also saying a formal announcement would follow in the not-distant future. Up to last year, he had raised more money for a future campaign than most state politicians, and reports due out soon likely will show a noticeable acceleration there.

He joins others of the GOP, Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, as notable fundraisers from last year, who like him also seem destined to rack up more impressive numbers for 2022. Almost certainly the pair will join him at some point.

News of Schroder’s entrance is good for Nungesser and bad for Landry. The past pattern of Nungesser’s donors and his rhetoric suggests he will try to run as a shadow Democrat who agrees with conservatives more often than not but who parts ways when it comes to the size and scope of government. Nungesser sounded much more ideologically conservative when he first ran for his current office, but since then has appeared more chameleon-like and once in office has offered suggestions to make government work better, but not to shrink its size or scope. This appears as an attempt to entice less-woke Democrats to tap his button on the screen.

By contrast, Schroder unambiguously seeks to occupy a conservative lane, for the most part consistently in his career. As a legislator, he did mix himself up a decade ago with faux fiscal reformers styling themselves the “budget hawks,” who passed themselves off as fiscal conservatives. The “hawks” ended up stumping for much one-time money in the fiscal year 2014 budget despite their lip service that they opposed this, initially asked for a large tax increase before settling for a smaller one, and supported increased spending. In all, the group produced a lot of populist show, presaging the inroads that would make into conservative governance over the next several years, but came up short of genuine fiscal conservatism.

Absent that, Schroder has a history of arguing for constrained government and has demonstrated a willingness to expand his focus on fiscal issues in a conservative direction on other issues. As an example, last year he joined with around a dozen other state chief financial officers to pledge turning back viewpoint discrimination by steering state business away from entities that practiced it.

This worldview pits him for conservative voter attention directly against Landry, and while the two probably differ little on issue preferences, they have exhibited divergent leadership styles. Landry puts his ideological conservatism front and center, pugnaciously taking on whatever challenges the political left presents that his office can address, first in Congress and now in his present post. His unapologetic pursuit of conservative policy ends both inspires voters who look for someone to fight hard for their agenda but also turns off others who don’t like such bombast and who feel more connected not to conservative populism, but to elements reflecting the state’s historical liberal populism.

It would be fair to note that Landry and Schroder would fight over largely the same base, but that Landry would disproportionately attract more ideological and populist conservatives leaning more to social issues than would Schroder, who would find greater establishment GOP support more aligned to business. At this point these dynamics aid Nungesser, who would appeal to Republicans who don’t have much of a problem with the size and reach of government, if not benefitting from it directly, as well as big government Democrats not enamored with the radical direction their national and some elements of their state party have taken ideologically.

If just Schroder and Nungesser, or even adding Landry, as major candidates Nungesser at present enjoys the best position. Presumably Landry or Schroder would knock one another out in the blanket primary/general election, or Schroder if no Landry would advance, to join him in a runoff, where in that scenario Democrats join enough Republicans to put him over the top in a rerun of the 2019 election except with the winner sporting a different party label.

But things go sour quickly for the Lt. Governor if a quality Democrat, especially a white one, enters the race. If Landry doesn’t jump in, with only Schroder on the solid right, Nungesser probably doesn’t even make the runoff, so if a Democrat tosses in his hat Nungesser has to hope Landry enters and that’s enough to split the GOP vote while he fights off a good chunk of his potential voters sloughing off to the Democrat. And Nungesser is history if each of a quality white and black Democrat contest, for then it won’t be a matter of trying to prevent a Republican-Democrat runoff with Nungesser on the outside, but stopping a Landry-Schroder runoff that ought to send every Democrat operative in the state scurrying to discourage quality Democrats from entering the fray.

Schroder’s all-but-in status unofficially launches these machinations. Such an early declaration won’t have an impact on who ultimately gets in, but does draw greater attention to whatever he does going forward.

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