Search This Blog

Loading...

5.3.09

Jindal endorsement takes risk with uncertain payoff

Gov. Bobby Jindal took a bit of a risk in endorsing one Republican candidate, businessman Lee Domingue, over two others, Laurinda Calogne and Dan Claitor, in the special election for the District 16 Senate seat occurring this Saturday, while any payoff seems small.

Typically, there are three reasons why a high-level elected official endorses someone lower down: because the preferred candidates’ issue preferences are distinctly different from the others and can prove definitively helpful for that policy-maker’s future agenda, the policy-maker wants to have a way to demonstrate political power, or because of a strong personal relationship between the two. Only one of these would seen even to come close to explaining Jindal’s action here.

Frankly, in policy terms, the three candidates don’t differ much. All would be reliable voters for a conservative agenda that Jindal backs. Further, while Jindal has said he is friendly with Domingue, usually there has to be a pretty strong bond between individuals for an endorsement to be made unless is for a comparable office for partisan reasons. For example, former Rep. Jim McCrery made just one such endorsement for the entire 20 years of his service – for his college roommate running for the Caddo Parish Commission. (For the record, that candidate lost.)

The reason why elected officials almost always shy away from these kinds of support is by its nature any endorsement is risky when coming from somebody already with power. If the favored candidate were to lose, not only would this be considered a negative reflection on the political strength of the higher official, but chances are the winner would harbor a grudge against him and be much less reliable of a supporter in the future had there been no intervention. This payoff must be really high and/or the victory of the desired candidate pretty certain for the official to go out on a limb like that, especially as an endorsement carries more weight in a low-stimulus contest like this legislative special election race.

It’s possible that Jindal has inside information that Domingue is expected to win, and perhaps even has given tacit support to him all along, so he may not see endorsement as a risk. Even so, if somebody looks likely to win, why alienate others if he really doesn’t need the help to win unless you really want to prove a point? One never knows when, down the road, political help might be needed by a vanquished candidate and this endorsement makes this far less likely.

There could be another explanation, but it seems pretty unlikely: Domingue contributed $3,500 to past Jindal campaigns, and others in his family $115,000, to Jindal since 2006 while the others contributed nothing. But other candidates for other state and local office from legislative on down have given big sums to Jindal and he never got involved in those contests. If one could “buy” a Jindal endorsement this way he’d have been making them left and right and it would be known so Domingue’s opponents could have made their own before qualifying. In any event, this would not be a good political strategy for Jindal to be known for auctioning off an endorsement, so it’s got to be something other than this.

Perhaps friendship had something to do with it, and don’t put it past Jindal to send as a friendly subtle warning to potential candidates that a donation to his campaign might be some good insurance, at the least, to prevent an endorsement for your opponent (and also note that Jindal technically lives in this district, so I suppose he has every right as a constituent to voice an opinion), but the main motive here seems to be a demonstration of power. If so, there is some risk here. Should Domingue pick up an absolutely majority on Saturday, Jindal probably can claim some small credit and a little additional political capital. However, if he heads to a runoff in April, while it may bring Jindal on this account no loss it likely brings him no gain, either, and an elimination of Domingue now or defeat in April will harm Jindal’s standing.

Obviously, Jindal is not going to comment on these types of motivations so we’ll never know for sure how much of a role these considerations played in his decision-making, but it is even more obvious that this unusual and unexpected move represents a real potential risk for Jindal the payoff for which may not be commensurate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Doc,

You wrote:

"...[F]ormer Rep. Jim McCrery made just one such endorsement for the entire 20 years of his service – for his college roommate running for the Caddo Parish Commission. (For the record, that candidate lost.)"

McCrery did the same thing, at least twice, that is, if you are correct about the above statement. He endorsed a person in the Republican Primary for Congress to replace himself in Congress. (For the record, that candidate also lost.)

Isn't that correct?

Factfinder