Search This Blog

Loading...

11.10.07

Jindal untouched by stones thrown from glass houses

As polls continue to show Republican Bobby Jindal with a good chance of winning the Louisiana governor’s race outright, opponents irritated at his unwillingness to take their barbs at public forums desperately keep tossing those stones from glass houses in an effort to keep their faint hopes alive.

According to results of the latest gubernatorial poll, by Southeastern Louisiana University, Jindal will win outright on Oct. 20. He has just a shade under 50 percent of the registered vote, but about 21 percent are undecided. Only a small portion of those have to decide on Jindal and it’s all over. His major opponents, Democrat state Sen. Walter Boasso, independent businessman John Georges, and Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell barely can crack double-digits, if even that. Thus, they know not only must they entice these undecided voters to themselves to finish second, but in order for that to mean anything they have to wrench voters from Jindal because there’s no other source of voters for them and to keep jindal from garnering a majority..

(And that 21 percent probably is divided largely into a couple of categories: those who aren’t that enthusiastic about Jindal and are wondering if any of the others can indicate something significantly impressive to convince them not to vote for Jindal in favor of that other, and those who definitely doesn’t want to vote for Jindal but can’t decide which of the others to vote for. That first group will not respond to negative attacks on Jindal and are likely to vote for him because if the others haven’t done anything to impress these undecided intended voters by now, they are unlikely to do it at all.)

Jindal knows his opponents only can gain at his expense if he’s around to have them attack him and maybe goad him into blunders, so he committed only to three forums (which is about as many statewide venues he participated in during his 2003 run). This appears to frustrate them and actually leads to a role reversal where they start saying distorted, if not silly, things that invite observers to remind them of their own failings.

Boasso already has run afoul of this during one forum attended by Jindal by his insisting Jindal intended one thing about a big expansion in federal government health care spending when Jindal not a day earlier said the exact opposite. One of Boasso’s themes has been that Jindal is “dishonest” for not being “truthful” about things, but this remark made Boasso look silly if not hypocritical

Georges’ turn to look the same came at a forum not attended by Jindal when he implied Jindal for not being present therefore was dodging the public: “We need a governor who won't hide.” He then implied Jindal was on the take when he said Jindal should return any donations from contractors (Jindal is not a multi-millionaire like Georges, who has financed almost entirely his campaign from his own resources.)

But that very day the media reported that Georges, who had made a public display of “divesting” himself of gambling interests and told a statewide audience he was out of the business completely, still directed a gambling operation. Which makes it a fair question to Georges about why he is “hiding” his continued connection to gambling and perhaps he should give away whatever proportion of his campaign fund that came from money he made off of gambling interests to … well, maybe people who lost money gambling?

(Even though Campbell steered clear of jumping on Jindal, in some ways he treads on thin ice as well. During the forum he talked of the dangers of lobbyists and their blandishments. Yet Campbell received substantial campaign support from an operator of a Ouachita Parish water system with over 150 violations while the PSC did little initially to address the situation. This doesn’t indicate that Campbell or any of the commissioners were being unduly influenced, but it does start to strain credibility when Campbell argues for ethics reform when he hasn’t made sure his own backyard is in order.)

It has been the hopes of the dwarves of the gubernatorial contest to use the forums to eat into Jindal’s advantage by putting him on the defensive in them. Instead, if anything the tactic is backfiring as their own statements open themselves up to criticism.

10.10.07

Supreme Court looks likely to end LA blanket primary

I was wondering how long it would take the Louisiana media to get around to noticing that the opening-day case argued by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning Washington state’s blanket primary system might have an impact on Louisiana. It now officially has, nine days later, but didn’t report why the law would be in trouble, or that, from oral argumentation, it appears this will be the last statewide election that operates under the blanket primary system.

It started with a California case decided in 2000 that had permitted a “partisan” blanket primary (the official name scholars give to Louisiana’s system, largely ignored by the state’s media and politicians, is a nonpartisan blanket primary). For decades California had allowed cross-nomination – a candidate could seek nominations from more than one party – but then changed to allow all voters the opportunity to vote in any party’s primary for any office, with winners fro each party advancing to the general election. This is in contrast to an “open” primary system where a voter regardless of affiliation may choose one particular party’s primary in which to participate.

The Court, reaffirming lower court decisions, struck this down, the majority arguing that it infringed on the free association rights of political parties. That is, it prevented parties from disassociating themselves with candidates who in the main could be chosen by non-party affiliates. At the time, the majority made clear the ruling did not impact the open primary, because in having to choose one party’s primary in which to participate the voter was making an affirmation of allegiance, or the nonpartisan blanket primary, since the general election could advance two members of the same party which, in the Court’s words, “This system has all the characteristics of the partisan blanket primary, save the constitutionally crucial one: Primary voters are not choosing a party's nominee.”

Washington had a similar system, so in response a popular initiative was proposed, and passed by voters, that dispensed with the party nominee aspect and instead would advance the top two vote getters to the general election. It is like Louisiana’s in every way except that Washington did not claim that candidates would run as a representative of a party but instead would indicate a “personal party preference” in an attempt to obviate the claim that they were running in a nomination contest. Lower courts have rejected this wording as cosmetic. In addition, oral argumentation last week in front of the Court appeared to indicate that it was skeptical of the Washington law as well.

Louisiana’s nonpartisan blanket primary now is threatened because, in the most recent case, lower courts are providing a more exact definition of “nonpartisan” which was not really addressed in the Court decision concerning California. To them, the term defines an election such as held in Nebraska where there is no party affiliations listed on the ballots at all (even as candidates publicize their affiliations). If the Court agrees, this means that neither Washington’s nor Louisiana’s systems are “nonpartisan” and thus are in violation of the associational rights of political parties. If it does, then the only way Louisiana could keep its present system is to remove partisan labels from ballots.

Court decisions, even with seemingly-strong evidence from oral arguments, are hard to predict, and this obviously won’t be decided until after state and local elections, and then someone would have to challenge Louisiana’s system. But if the Court goes in the direction it seems to indicate, one huge matter the next Legislature will have to tackle is replacing its blanket primary system.

9.10.07

Georges disconnect from voters hampers election bid

Now it’s John Georges that has gone into desperation mode? As Louisiana gubernatorial candidates flail against Rep. Bobby Jindal’s juggernaut, they keep criticizing him over things that frankly don’t matter or are entirely distorted.

Last week it was state Sen. Walter Boasso who tried to make Jindal out to be supporting one thing when Jindal’s own words previously that day entirely contradicted Boasso’s assertion. In effect, it made Boasso look small in comparison to Jindal (which is really saying something). Boasso recognizes that Jindal is threatening to win outright without a general election runoff, and has pledged to do anything to win himself.

Now Georges, running as an independent although previously calling himself a Republican, is playing the petulance card. He probably has realized that he could be the second-choice voter among more of the Republican Jindal’s supporters than Democrat Boasso or Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, so if he detaches Jindal voters, by negative attacks, he thinks they’ll float on over to him.

Even though he claims he’s not a politician, Georges is making the same mistake that so many do: winning votes is not just a matter of getting others not to vote for somebody else, but then to get them to vote for you. His latest whining about Jindal shows how little he understands this.

In a candidate forum not attended by Jindal, Georges asserted, “When someone applies for a job and doesn’t show up for the interview, you don’t give him the job.” Forgetting for the moment that while Jindal may have only twice participated in these forums he has “interviewed” hundreds, if not thousands, of times across the state in church, civic, and other gatherings, when has Georges ever even interviewed for a real job? He’s spent his career stepping right into the family business, from a privileged background.

This puts him in marked contrast to his three major competitors, all of whom come from working class or lower middle class immigrant backgrounds, whose families and they had to work hard even to approach the level of affluence into which Georges was born. And this is what Georges doesn’t get: one senses that his campaign is baffled why it doesn’t do better with all the money and the agenda he has (which doesn’t differ from Jindal’s by much), because they do not understand that you just don’t walk into a political executive’s job depending upon the people’s votes no matter how successful you have been in the business world.

Despite his darker skin and obvious high-faluting intelligence, Jindal does a much better job of showing how his wants and desires, and the ideas he proposes to achieve them through government, match those of the typical citizen of Louisiana. In short, Georges doesn’t grasp what Jindal, or even Boasso and Campbell, understand about the lives of ordinary Louisianans.

It’s why his form of criticism of Jindal came out the way it did. It’s also why he will be fortunate to get into a runoff with Jindal, and why he will lose with or without one.

8.10.07

LA atty. gen. race may act as GOP, reform bellwether

Perhaps the best indicator of partisan fortunes in Louisiana state elections this year will come from a contest that typically does not generate a lot of excitement, that for attorney general. It also can tell much about how anti-incumbent sentiment there is out there that will tend to favor Republican candidates.

There’s no doubt that the best Democrats can hope for in this cycle is to minimize losses. They may be able to prevent any losses in the state Senate but will lose some seats in the House. They also look highly likely to lose most statewide offices (that all but one major candidates running for governor was a Republican six months ago and the only long-time Democrat in the race was considered to be a second-tier choice and continues to lag the others in funding is telling).

On primary election day, we will know whether the GOP is headed for big or minimal success, or somewhere in between by the end of the general election day next month, on the outcomes of the governor’s, agriculture commissioner’s, and attorney general’s races. For governor, Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal faces the “original” Democrat, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat, and a Republican-turned-independent as major foes. For agriculture commissioner, incumbent Democrat Bob Odom faces two major Republicans. For attorney general, incumbent Democrat Charles Foti faces Republican Royal Alexander and Democrat Buddy Caldwell.

Minimal expectations will be met if Jindal is forced into a runoff, Odom makes a runoff, and Foti makes a runoff. They go higher if Jindal wins outright and Odom fails to make the runoff. Things will look really well for the GOP if in addition Foti fails to make the general election runoff.

The attorney general’s race is the bellwether because Jindal is widely expected to win the governor’s contest while Odom, beset with strong challengers and plenty of controversy and bad publicity, is expected to have a tough time holding onto his position. But real Republican and reformist waves would be evident if Alexander and Caldwell make a runoff, with Alexander eventually winning.

This is because each attorney general candidate has his strengths and flaws as candidates. Foti has the advantages of incumbency but has lost two high profile cases that he was advised by many professionals that he could not win, spending millions of taxpayers dollars in these futile efforts that look more and more like publicity stunts (despite the losses, he insists he was correct). Alexander has solid Republican and conservative credentials and a variety of experiences in and out of government and different levels, but has faced a lawsuit over his previous employment as a congressional staffer (whether the suit has any merit, which he says it doesn’t) and has had made public some statements that made it look like he was skirting campaign finance laws (even as all parties involved say he was not). Caldwell brings much experience as a district attorney but was involved in questionable dealings over public monies (he says they were honest mistakes) and reacted very intemperately when the state audited him over these matters which makes him look ill-suited to run a large government agency (he says he was being unfairly hounded over the matters).

With candidate dynamics such as these in play, partisanship and anti-incumbent attitudes will play a larger role than typical in this contest. Without a significant increase in Republican or reformist sentiment this fall, Foti will make the runoff and win. Sufficient voter disgust with lackadaisical state performance will translate into an anti-incumbent bent that would send Foti home on Oct. 20, as partisans will have a choice to vote for non-incumbents Caldwell or Alexander. But a significant boost in favor of the GOP will make Alexander come out on top of Caldwell on Nov. 17.

Expectations are for a Jindal win and trouble for Odom. But Alexander making the runoff and winning will make it a big cycle for Republicans. That the attorney general’s race may be the only Republican/Democrat clash left for the runoff will make it even more crucial for coattails down to the legislative level, meaning that if Alexander can win, expect gains for the GOP in the state lower chamber perhaps to the point of a Republican-majority House convening in 2008.

7.10.07

Landrieu unable to think for herself, to LA's detriment

Democrats are retreating in trying to use a comment made by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh to distract the American public from their poor, politicized judgment about the Iraq war. Unfortunately for Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, the realization this was a losing issue came too late for her and gave her the opportunity again to show her contempt for free speech and to remind the public of her mistaken policy prescriptions associated with the prosecution of that war.

Recently, Limbaugh referred to the left’s penchant for producing people who claim the U.S. military regularly commits atrocities in Iraq but who are found never to have witnessed such things because they haven’t served there as “phony soldiers.” A hack front organization for liberal operatives connected to Democrat Sen. Hillary Clinton then tried to promote the idea that Limbaugh had referred to anyone in the military who opposed the war, which a review of the context of the remarks shows to be utterly mistaken and thereby driven by politics. The goal of this distraction was to try to establish an equivalency between these remarks and those made by an allied leftist pressure group that questioned in a newspaper ad the commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus’ honesty, competence, and patriotism that Democrats saw no problem with until public opinion turned decisively against them, in order to deflect criticism.

But as public awareness of the vapidity of this attempt increased, most Senate Democrats embarrassed themselves by sending a letter to the head of Limbaugh’s network asking for a disavowal of his remarks (naturally declined, for there was nothing offensive about calling someone who lied about his service a “phony soldier”). While a few Democrat senators were sensible and could think with enough independence from their party not to sign it, Landrieu possessed neither the intelligence nor wisdom to do so indicated by her signing on to this foolishness.

Certainly Landrieu has been looking for a way to turn the Louisiana public’s attention away from the series of bad choices she has made marching in lockstep with Democrats’ efforts to bring about American defeat in Iraq since victory dos not serve their political agenda. Only last month, after Petraeus reported the increase in U.S. force commitment and strategic alterations known as the “surge” were increasing stability and suppressing violence in Iraq, Landrieu acknowledged his testimony then flatly said his expert testimony did not change her closed mind.

And would the fact that, as widely reported yesterday, since the surge’s implementation there has been a continual decrease in military and civilian deaths that continues to accelerate change her mind? As of today, there’s no indication that she has woken up on this issue.

Signing the mistaken letter is consistent with Landrieu’s pro-censorship policy concerning political debate. And no doubt she hoped it also would get peoples’ minds off of her connections to disgraced Democrat fundraisers who she now claims she barely knows, another inconvenient item about her that came to light last month.

But as the vapidity of the attempt to create a controversy becomes more apparent, rather than redirect citizens’ concerns, Landrieu has made it only clearer that, like a lockstep Democrat lemming that she is, on important issues she would rather follow her national party’s liberal leadership than to think for herself – and thus make her less likely to chose policies for the betterment of Louisiana and the country instead of a bankrupt ideology.