A couple of days ago, Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser was on Channel 33 in Baton Rouge talking about the usual Lt. Governor things, and he got asked about next year’s gubernatorial election. This was the result…
Perhaps it isn’t our place to tell Nungesser how to run for statewide office, but this seems like a strategy certain to produce a poor outcome.
Here’s what we know: Jeff Landry is officially in, and he’s unleashing a flurry of activity right now. He’s doing a number of things that Nungesser will struggle to match even at his most vigorous, and he’s doing them before Nungesser is even in the race.
For example, we’ve talked to several members of the LAGOP Republican State Central Committee who have told us they’re being directly wooed by Landry’s campaign. The sense is that Landry probably already has better than half the RSCC willing to vote to endorse him, but he’s going for a vast consensus if not a unanimous vote as soon as possible.
And it isn’t a personal appeal. It’s one based on vision. What we’ve heard is that Landry is offering himself as a disruptive change agent where state government is concerned, and that he wants to bring a more comprehensive reform agenda than anybody’s seen since perhaps Huey Long’s time.
And he’s already got Donald Trump, Jr.’s endorsement, which is a pretty big tell that he’s going to be the Team Trump-approved candidate in the race.
Not to mention Landry has already banked upwards of $5 million to make the race with between his campaign funds and the PAC’s behind him.
So a big vision, boldly presented, with a whirlwind of activity behind it, and the most important endorsement in Republican politics all but assured.
If you’re Billy Nungesser, how are you going to compete with that waiting another three months?
For one thing, Nungesser hasn’t sketched out a vision for Louisiana. Landry has – he’s anti-woke, he’s willing to go after the corporate oligarchy, he’s talked about using state power to fight crime and local-government incompetence in the cities and he’s for reducing the size and scope of government as it relates to the lives of the law-abiding. Does Billy offer anything that competes with it?
The problem with waiting three months to do that is you’re then operating in Jeff Landry’s frame, and you have to answer to his narrative. Landry is preparing the battlefield right now. By January it’ll be his battlefield.
And no, you can’t counter that by running around and making nice with all the local pols around the state and trying to build a machine. That might get you some help in the New Orleans area where that’s still how politics are run. But on the other hand, Landry has already outlined how he’ll address the number one issue in New Orleans, which is its runaway crime. Does Nungesser have a competing vision on that? He’d better outline it, and soon, because it won’t be long before lots of voters in that area will assess Landry’s idea of surging state troopers and other law enforcement personnel into that city and locking up as many criminals as possible as what needs to be done.
By January Landry is likely to have nailed down relationships with most or all of the big Republican donors in the state, even the ones who’ve already given Nungesser money. He’ll have made all the alliances and sharpened his message.
And by January, Nungesser will find himself looking at a steep climb to get competitive – and worse, he’s going to have to run as what he hopes will be the de-facto Democrat in the race, because if Landry collects the Trump endorsement he’ll be looking at close to 40 percent of the vote in the bag and the question then will be who gets into the runoff with him and whether Nungesser can outpoll the Democrats in the race.
The only way he’ll be able to do that is if the Democrat vote splits at least two ways or maybe three.
And that might happen, but it’s entirely possible that it won’t. Besides, Democrats will vote for Democrats rather than Republicans. And pandering to Democrat voters, if you’re Nungesser, will just run off Republican support because in the age of Joe Biden even the squishy moderates Nungesser considers his base voters are terrified of the modern Democrat Party.
And they want somebody to do things differently than that.
What are we saying here? Pretty simply: if Nungesser is going to wait until January to make an announcement regarding his electoral plans for 2023, he’s probably more likely to say he’s running for re-election. By then there won’t be any point in anything else.