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23.8.07

Georges would earn politician label with party change

f it wasn’t enough self-deception on the part of (for now) Republican Louisiana gubernatorial candidate John Georges in his even getting into a race he could win, he may add on some more by thinking a party switch (or abandonment) will get himself elected – illustrating the big problems he and the other dwarves face in trying to prevent Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal from winning that contest.

A poll he commissioned showed that he would more than double his intended vote if he ran as an independent rather than as a Republican, so now he’s considering the idea – only a couple of weeks after he gave an interview in which he clearly identified himself as a Republican and with the party. He thinks the poll shows him the switch marginally could improve his chances to get into the general election runoff with Jindal.

One must shake his head trying to figure out this thought process. Yes, he might pick up some votes – going from 3 to 8 percent; twice nothing is still nothing compared to Jindal’s 50 percent-plus the survey caught. And he doesn’t seem to understand how such a move may look to voters when he’s the guy who’s been going around and saying he’s not a typical politician which is a reason to vote for him – it looks blatantly political switching just because you think it will pick up more votes. (He’s not the only one, obviously, in this race or in others.)

But let’s say its works and somehow he does make it to a runoff as Jindal does not get better than half of the vote. If the party change got him that far, what next, another after Oct. 20? Or is his strategy to hope Jindal gets caught with a live boy or a dead girl before election day? Clearly, whatever the strategy has been to this point, it flounders against Jindal.

(More delusional thinking from the Georges camp about this poll: his pollster thinks it’s wonderful that his name recognition has hit 55 percent – but that’s meaningless when you’re only pulling 3 percent of the vote. And that Georges comes off as the best second-choice vote – so what if the first choice is running away with it?)

What Georges has to understand is winners get elected on the basis of their personalities, their messages, and their campaigns. Jindal comes off as a sincere, somewhat experienced but not self-absorbed politician with a credible message that he will change the way things are done in Louisiana to positive effect, and he’s got a solid campaign organization. That’s hard to beat no matter how many gimmicks like party changes you try to throw into a campaign. So why should he chuck aside one thing that many think he does have going for him, sincerity?

Who knows whether Georges will make the switch come the end of qualifying Sep. 7? But if he does, we will know that Georges wasn’t all that authentic in his assertion that he was not your typical politician.

22.8.07

Jindal defends while Foti starts more political strikes

In the past couple of days, two prominent candidates for statewide office – one to defend himself, one to kickstart a flagging campaign – have taken actions regarding assertions of legality the undeniable impact of each will be felt politically.

Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal sent requests to television stations to halt airing of attack ads that claimed he denigrated people of certain religious beliefs on the basis of their false nature. (Note: I don’t have copies of the articles in question, but I recall reading some of these at the time they came out, and from what I remember there was nothing inflammatory about them at all; indeed, I was struck by their serious, thoughtful tone and was intrigued somebody in his mid-twenties could produce them.) This course of action emphasized the “no gifts” strategy Jindal has adopted when negative information of a distorted nature is disseminated by Democrats.

The producer of the ads, the state’s Democrat Party refused to backtrack from their airing in select markets, and major Democrat candidates for governor state Sen. Walter Boasso and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell to their discredit did not repudiate the ads. (It’s telling, however, that while the Democrats have provided a website to amplify the ad, it does not reproduce the entire articles – probably because they fear doing so would show how wildly out of context are taken Jindal’s passages.)

21.8.07

Democrats signal surrender with new Jindal attack ads

It’s official: Louisiana state Democrats have thrown in the towel, conceded that Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal will become the state’s next governor, if the kinds of attack ads they have started to run in select parts of the state indicate anything.

When encountering a candidate such as Jindal that has high positive evaluations from the electorate at large, and has a runaway lead in the polls, the only way he can be beaten (absent some major campaign blunder on his part) is to try to poison feelings about him in order to detach voters, and then direct them to an acceptable alternative. But there are more and less effective ways of doing this.

Democrats’ first salvo, about health care issues, demonstrated an attempt to try to do it the way that might actually succeed. If voters can be shown a candidate does not pursue broad policy options that they share, they will look for an alternative. However, Jindal began countering that ad immediately with effective responses which is the recommended strategy to negate the impact of such ads.

Now the Democrats have given a lesson on how not to do it, attacking Jindal not for any policy preferences, but for his religious views and people who donate to his campaign. Ad campaigns based upon personal smearing (with the exception of corruption issues) will tend to detach some voters, but they usually backfire in creating sympathy for a candidate seen as being unfairly treated through an invasion of his private life separate from the public square, and disgusts and thus discourages voters from participating including many who would have voted for other candidates. Even if they detach voters, since the attack is personal and not on the basis of issues, they are given no reason to vote for Democrats or anybody else. In other words, unlike the other strategy, this one cannot turn a winner into a loser and losers into winners; it best it depresses support for everybody and at worst actually helps the attacked candidate by generating sympathy for him.

But that’s the entire point of the state Democrats’ intentions. With the launching of these kinds of attempted character assassination and guilt-by-association ads, they tell us they have given up keeping Jindal out of the Governor’s Mansion. Rather, knowing political tides heavily favor Jindal and any Republican that can catch his coattails, with these ads Democrats aim to accomplish two things: limit downballot damage to the party’s candidates now and to try to contain Jindal from becoming a national threat in the future.

While the ads may not reduce Jindal’s support relative to other candidates enough to stop his winning, it may keep enough voters away who would have flipped levers for Republicans in other contests, or even (in a macabre kind of amputation of one part to save another) motivate uninvolved Democrats appalled at the attacks to hit the polls in Jindal’s favor, but who also then vote Democrat for other offices. And national Democrats fear Jindal becoming a national force so a pre-emptive strike of this nature, years before Jindal becomes a serious White House contender, is designed to signal Jindal and his supporters what they can expect if he goes national in order to discourage such thinking. (State Democrats’ noncommittal comments about the religious attack ads indicate it really is the national party driving this one.)

Louisiana voters deserve campaign information about things that matter. Desperate Democrats have waved the white flag on Jindal and will do all they can to prevent any serious discussion about issues affecting the state through election day.

20.8.07

LA GOP closing of primaries politically astute move

The Louisiana Republican Party made the right call in closing its federal-office primaries to improve its electoral fortunes, and in doing so have put Democrats into a quandary.

The GOP’s Central Committee voted overwhelmingly to bar independent (‘no-party,” technically) registrants from being able to participate in its party primaries to make for a true closed primary system. The new state law allowing parties to do this had an option to allow for open primaries such as in Texas where any voter can participate in just one party’s primary, but that was left up to the parties.

While some argued that not allowing non-party registrants the possibility of voting in GOP primaries for federal office (and there are almost as many of them in the state as there are Republicans) was exclusionary, others noted that the most important decision a party can make is who its nominee will be and that should be a privilege only of those wishing to officially affiliate with it, and not something to be decided at least partially by non-members.

It’s also the smart thing politically. There may be some registrants who have voted regularly Republican that now could find themselves unable to do so in a primary – but they still can in the general election. Further, if they find it so important to vote for Republicans in all elections, all they have to do is change their registration. Research shows that the surest way to build party loyalty, including straight-ticket voting for its candidates, is for them to adopt the party label through registration; the effect will be weakened if made optional even if they vote often for GOP candidates. This contradicted opponents’ arguments that somehow votes would be sacrificed by closing the primaries.

Opponents also foolishly argued that somehow it would make the GOP be seen as “exclusionary” to be exploited as a campaign issue by Democrats if they did not close theirs. Needless to say, that argument from an intuitive, commonsensical standpoint holds little water, to think Democrats actually would make an issue of it with so many other more important ones out there, or that it would actually sway anybody.

Realize that the true source of the objection was that some feared social conservative elements would be too influential in party nominations. This was made overt when a motion came to change apportionment rules on the Central Committee. It would have reduced the rural representation on the Committee where presumably such voters are overweighed. The Committee makes decisions such as primary participation and any official endorsements of candidates. This also was defeated.

(Consider the sources of the objections: John Treen, the only man ever to lose an election to David Duke, and Peppi Bruneau, who couldn’t even get his son elected to his state House seat even by resigning early. These aren’t exactly the kind of guys who know how to win elections. Consider also that the Republican winner of the last Senate race, Sen. David Vitter, is identified with the socially-conservative wing of the party, but that the Republican loser of the previous Senate contest, former Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell, was not.)

But when the Democrats’ Central Committee meets in the near future, expect them not to close their primaries. They should realize that their activist elements, who would be represented disproportionately in a closed primary, are far too liberal to win statewide elections, or even anything outside of the present Second Congressional District. If they are smart, they will allow in more moderate independents that will produce more moderate nominees.

Yet if this comes about, the GOP catches another break. This would allow Republican-minded independents to go in and “raid” Democrat primaries – knowing they can’t vote in the GOP one but preferring any Republican candidate, these people will vote for the most unelectable Democrat in that party’s primary to increase Republican chances of wining the general election.

So in this pre-emptive way, the GOP closing of primaries also is a politically astute move, putting state Democrats in the position to risk the effects of raiding, or in order to avoid it to put the party more firmly in the hands of those who will drag it to defeat. The state Republicans often have not done smart things, but this decision surely is clever.

19.8.07

Hotel opens critical investigation of Hightower governance

This summer, Shreveport citizens got some unpleasant reminders about how badly former mayor Keith Hightower used their resources. Hopefully, such memories will linger if the citizenry gets asked to consider any political comeback Hightower may attempt.

In June, the Hilton Hotel connected to the city’s Convention Center finally opened. Hightower was the driving force behind both ideas being implemented. The Center was questionable from the start, given the economics of the matter, with many experts arguing the city’s idea that its costs would be exceeded by the benefits of convention business was a dream.

The hotel matched the center for dubiousness as a money-making enterprise. No study ever showed it making money for the city (in fact, to justify the state paying about 20 percent of it, Hightower took an existing study which showed it losing big money, altered some assumptions of it in an unrealistic fashion to reverse that conclusion, and brazenly presented it to the State Bond Commission which fell for it).