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16.8.07

Jindal in no mood for gifts regarding baseless attacks

In political campaigning, no matter how outrageously untrue an opponent’s charge may be against a candidate, there must be some kind of response. It’s a lesson Republican candidate for Louisiana governor Rep. Bobby Jindal apparently has learned, reducing Democrat party officials to lying about their own lies about Jindal.

Earlier this week, the state Democrats launched an attack ad campaign against Jindal with this ad making wildly distorted statements about Jindal’s record. One example was the claim that Jindal supported raising the Medicare eligibility age requirement – presumably imputing this to him since he served on a panel to make recommended changes regarding Medicare where the idea was discussed. But the panel itself never made that recommendation.

On this and other assertions in the ad Jindal rapidly distributed to media (seen at his campaign website) replies showing that in every case the statements made about Jindal either did not have a basis in fact (such as the Medicare one) or were not matters of fact in the first place (such as the opinion that Jindal’s vote against letting the federal government negotiate drug prices for use in federal programs meant he was against lower prices; a congressional study concluded there probably wouldn’t be any reduction in price, and prices go could higher through extra administrative costs, as well as rationing of medicine may occur). We can look for Jindal campaign ads along these themes to appear shortly, if the campaign is as on the ball as they were with the speed of the dissemination of the rebuttals.

The state Democrats’ spokeswoman sniffed, “Our ads are not based on any kind of opinion. They're based on facts.” Neither statement is true, and one wonders how the party would take it if some candidate ran an ad concerning Democrat candidate state Sen. Walter Boasso that argued he was for reducing the retirement benefits of state workers, a charge that would lack the same context and be every bit as distorting as what Democrats tried to pass off concerning Jindal.

The impact of this event in the 2007 campaign won’t really come from the baseless charges, or the easy refutation Jindal’s camp makes of them. That Jindal responds will be the most significant outcome and shows there will be no gifts given this season, to the detriment of Democrat electoral fortunes in Louisiana.

15.8.07

Clinton success may cause LA Dems' luck to run out

Louisiana Democrats have more to worry about that just electoral success of Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal. As many Democrats privately begin to worry about the effect that a Sen. Hillary Clinton nomination for the presidency in 2008 might have on other contests held that year, two of the most worried elected Democrats on that account should be Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Charlie Melancon.

Both have won two terms through good fortune. Landrieu initially scraped into office in 1996 when the national GOP ran a lackluster candidate and campaign and winner Pres. Bill Clinton had yet to commit a federal crime while in office to sully all Democrats. Her winning margin of fewer than 6,000 votes likely came from fraud but could not be legally proven as its source. In 2002, she added slightly to her total against a weak Republican challenger.

Melancon also got a lot of help his first time and a little more of it for his run for reelection. A divisive primary between two Republicans barely put Melancon into the general election runoff. The candidate barely out of the money, state Sen. Craig Romero, apparently decided that rather than support another Republican his best chance of eventually getting into Congress would be to wage a scorched-earth post-campaign against the other Republican to elect Melancon and then try to knock off Melancon in 2006. The first part worked but the second didn’t, as Melancon was aided by national fortunes swinging the Democrats’ way last year to defeat Romero.

But what comes around goes around, and Lady Luck dressed as Hillary Clinton might desert the only two white Democrats elected to federal office in Louisiana. With polling showing about half of Americans unwilling to vote for Clinton for president, her nomination would energize Republicans, drawing more than the typical number than without such a divisive opposition candidate. A majority of these extra voters likely will punch straight tickets, creating a disadvantage for down-ballot Democrats like Landrieu and Melancon.

Liberals dressed in moderates’ clothing, both know they have little margin for error in a state and district with which whose populations they are out of touch on the issues by and large. Clinton’s attempt to appear more moderate will fool few who remember her First Lady days and this will be imputed to Landrieu and Melancon, breaching the carefully-crafted shields of moderate political personas they have tried so hard to build.

Melancon may catch yet another break as this GOP advantage can work only with a good candidate, and none seems yet to have emerged. But quality Republicans seem ready to challenge Landrieu, and it would be ironic if the woman with whom she often votes on the same side next year will turn out to be the straw that breaks that back of Landrieu’s Senate career.

14.8.07

Dems attack Jindal to prevent party electoral meltdown

Louisiana Democrats received another blow when a poll announced that Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal had a stranglehold on the electorate for the governor’s race – and the news could get worse courtesy of one of their own.

Jindal has the intended vote of 63 percent of the sampled electorate, according to the poll. Almost 50 points behind come the rest of the dwarves – Democrat state Sen. Walter Boasso, Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, and Republican businessman John Georges, with Boasso leading them in at 14 percent. Only 17 percent say they are undecided.

Such a magnitude of the vote, if it holds close to this level, will cause state Democrats major problems this fall beyond surrendering the Governor’s Mansion. Candidates at the top of a ticket such as presidential, since the most important race draws the most attention, have the most impact on turnout and subsequent voting behavior for all contests on a ballot. A very popular candidate discourages turnout from other parties’ voters who otherwise would show up to tick off semi-consciously candidates for lower-level offices from that party on the ballot.

In most states, the impact of a candidate having a large gubernatorial lead would be minimal since that contest gets overshadowed by the presidential race, since the majority of states have their elections in years divisible by four, or even by senatorial contests in the dozen or so states that have them in even-numbered years not divisible by four. But a few like Louisiana have theirs in odd numbered years where federal electoral forces have minimal sway, putting the focus clearly on the governor’s race. And at these levels, Jindal’s predicted performance may tip several competitive state legislative races into the Republican column.

And it can get worse. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin continues to talk about a quixotic run for the office, with the poll showing he would come in second. Having such a divisive figure, with the poll showing four-fifths of whites disapproving but almost as many blacks approving of him, running as a Democrat makes the highly unlikely scenario that Boasso or Campbell somehow making it into the general election runoff with Jindal impossible since Nagin apparently would ace them out. Knowing this would discourage turnout of white Democrats further with amplified down-ballot repercussions.

As state Democrats launch an attack ad campaign against Jindal, they do so not out of any real hope that a Democrat can defeat him in the fall, but to energize their base and minimize the aura of inevitability of Jindal’s election that could trickle down into a meltdown of other state and local Democrat office-winning chances.

13.8.07

Boasso's ineffective strategy flounders against Jindal

In yesterday’s posting I didn’t refer to the other major dwarf in the Louisiana governor’s race, Democrat state Sen. Walter Boasso, but the giant in the contest Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal also is causing him fits.

As a demonstration of such, last month Boasso’s camp proudly proclaimed that their polling showed him down only 31 points to Jindal in intended vote. As have other polls, this one showed a tremendously large base already established for Jindal, meaning opponents would have to go an extra mile in trying to defeat him: not only would they have to corral voters, but in order to get enough of them, they would have to find a way to detach them first from Jindal.

Boasso has been trying to detach, but ineffectively. Carrying around cardboard cutouts of Jindal in person and on broadcasts may tickle funnybones, but barely perceptible from it is Boasso’s message that Jindal has no substance especially since Jindal has made a lot of votes in Congress that seem to make a lot of Louisiana voters happy.

More substantively, Boasso also has run ads criticizing Jindal’s fairly congruent voting record to Pres. George W. Bush. Again, that’s not going to work that well in a state where Bush still has pretty decent approval ratings and the office in question has nothing to do with governing at the federal level. Jindal recently threw more cold water onto that strategy by contradicting it with his pledge (with the entire state congressional delegation) to vote to override a threatened presidential veto regarding in part flood protection projects for the state.

For attack ads to work, they must seem credible and relevant, and Boasso’s, who has staked the major part of his campaign on them concerning Jindal, don’t do well being either so he can’t begin to chip into Jindal’s support. While in the physical world Boasso’s bulk overshadows slender Jindal, in the political world Boasso still comes off puny compared to Jindal.

12.8.07

Gubernatorial dwarves confounded by giant Jindal

Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana gubernatorial campaign keeps cruising along, much to the consternation of his foes who continue to shut their eyes to reality when they are not trying to convince him to help them defeat him.

Longshot hope Republican businessman John Georges got more confirmation of his status with his own poll showing that Jindal essentially has locked up 38 percent of the intended vote. Interestingly, his campaign stressed that aspect of the survey, not his own standing likely because it is still in the low single digits.

Georges’ whistling in the dark in response to the numbers was along the lines that Jindal only had 38 percent “before our campaign,” simultaneously embracing the fictions that his campaign hadn’t already started and was doing poorly and that somehow Jindal wouldn’t get much else support beyond that level. To put it in perspective, in the 2003 primary, Jindal’s actual vote was only 33 percent; chances are better than even at this level he’ll pick up at least another 12 percent regardless of what Georges or anybody else does, absent a David Vitter-like skeleton in the closet.

Meanwhile, another Jindal opponent Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell is annoyed that Jindal won’t “debate” him (although three are planned on public television a month before the primary election). This is because Jindal wisely is following the time-old strategy of when you are a giant in a contest of dwarves, behave as if the dwarves don’t exist. Their position only can get better while yours only can get worse if you treat them as equals. So Jindal is not about to give Campbell or anybody else any extra opportunities to try to make themselves look bigger by being given a spot next to him.

As if another example needed to appear to confirm the relative statuses of Jindal and Campbell, a presentation arranged by the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce had to be rearranged when Campbell, realizing that Jindal was a replacement speaker after local Congressman Jim McCrery had to withdraw, asked to appear with Jindal. Rather than have Campbell aboard, the Chamber dropped the idea, but immediately local Republicans picked it back up sponsoring Jindal.

No doubt the dwarves in the race are exasperated, but the fact is Jindal has the message and the money to promote it that likely a healthy majority in the state support and there’s little they can do about it. Again, at this point it’s Jindal’s race to lose.