SADOW: Kennedy Hint May Make Democrats’ Lives Worse

While waiting on Republican Sen. John Kennedy to make up his mind, a review is in order of where the Louisiana’s governor’s race and others below stand for next year.

Last week, both he and GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy stated they were giving serious consideration to running for governor. The timing wasn’t accidental: both had hoped to be in the Senate majority party and the greater power that brings, but elections days before didn’t turn out that way. Even though the GOP has a very strong chance of becoming the majority in two years, two years is an eternity in politics, so suddenly without warning both made this announcement.

Almost always such a pronouncement serves as a prelude to jumping into a race, and Cassidy certainly needs a lifeline to stay in politics past 2026 at this point. Right after his 2020 reelection, he began to make a series of puzzling decisions that perhaps have made him unelectable statewide, starting with laying out a solid case not to vote to convict Republican former Pres. Donald Trump on spurious impeachment charges then inexplicably recanting, followed by votes favoring detrimental legislation.

Yet perhaps bowing to reality, in what is becoming a familiar pattern he then said, “never mind.” His damaged electoral standing likely would have led not only to losing but losing badly, which would degrade further his deteriorating chances of hanging on in 2026. This undoubtedly brought a sigh of relief especially from Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who has said he will run but has yet to announce formally (now claiming he’s decided he’ll decide early next year), and who like Cassidy too often lapses from supporting a conservative agenda.

Still, Kennedy’s wavering should temper Nungesser’s enthusiasm, and particularly anybody else wishing to run who more faithfully adheres to conservatism, such as GOP Treas. John Schroder who also has indicated he’s in but hasn’t confirmed formally. If there’s one conservative who can go toe-to-toe with Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, who’s definitely in and vacuuming campaign donations and endorsements, that would be Kennedy.

In fact, his reach exceeds a conservative base. Kennedy is the most popular politician in the state and can find ways on his behalf to tap into a mountain of campaign cash left over from his recent overpowering Senate reelection. He would poach a good chunk of nonconservatives in the electorate, as that race showed.

If then tossing into the ring a credible Democrat, which seems likely as the party wouldn’t want to concede the state’s top office without a fight in order to support party-building and down-ballot efforts, to attract votes from the left, this probably would squeeze out Nungesser from any runoff hope. Indeed, in such a four-candidate scenario, the likeliest outcome might be Kennedy and Landry heading to the runoff as Democrats will be torn between their candidate and Nungesser as a last-ditch hope of stopping both of the two politicians they fear the most.

In short, a Kennedy entrance almost certainly will chase away the likes of Schroder and maybe even Nungesser. Only with a Landry/Kennedy/quality Democrat field is a Kennedy-Landry runoff less likely, but almost inevitably that Republican wins.

And the news is just as bad for Democrats if Kennedy turns out to be the winner. Obviously, a Landry win keeps both in the state’s most powerful offices. If not, consider that Kennedy and Landry are natural allies on most issues and have worked together on these. Should Kennedy slide into the governorship, he very well may appoint Landry to his vacancy, who even without that bestowal of incumbency would be formidable running for that office, and a Kennedy appointment would prevent an idle potential rival/successor from stirring the state government pot.

Finally, a Kennedy entrance that clears the field would have a big ripple effect below. Nungesser could try for reelection, but now would face a quality challenger in GOP former Rep. John Fleming and others could join in (or not if Nungesser trying again proves discouraging). Schroder could attempt reelection as well and have an easier time in all likelihood with Republican state Sen. Scott McKnight the only declared candidate at this time.

All in all, Kennedy getting in would simplify the contest for the top job, and in the process promising even more difficulties for Democrats while strengthening the hand conservatives can play in future state governance.

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