Ten days ago New Orleans businessman John Georges loaned his nearly defunct Louisiana campaign account $10.1 million, bringing the total he owes himself with his past 2007 governor’s and 2010 New Orleans mayor’s campaign debts to over $22.5 million. What does it mean and where will it lead, if anywhere?
Although his campaign finance paperwork indicates he could run for any statewide office, Georges is accustomed to being a chief executive officer and would not settle for anything but governor. Whether he will commit to it perhaps depends upon his chances of winning, which will be shaped by an assessment of his past campaigns and what they tell about him as a candidate, and of the blandishments of potential flatterers who will want to use his money for their purposes.
In 2007, running as an independent, despite spending over $11 million, even more than eventual winner and presumed fall opponent Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, Georges finished a distant third and barely beat Jindal in his home and heavily non-Republican Orleans Parish. In 2010, running as a Democrat despite sounding more conservative than liberal, he finished third after spending about $550 a vote. In other words, his past results have been rather unimpressive, demonstrating not much electability.
Likely he would run as a Democrat, which means these days for statewide office that kind of candidate would have to get a lot of crossover appeal to win. Unlike in 2007, Jindal does not appear to have rock-solid conservative support as some accuse him of not moving fast enough with a conservative agenda. But even though Georges comes off perhaps more conservative than liberal, few if any of these discontents seriously would consider Georges, especially as a Democrat; they’re more likely to try to find a longshot minor candidate or sit out the election. And Jindal still has the support of the vast majority of conservative voters in the state.
Further, Georges has shown himself to be as flighty as a candidate as former lieutenant governor candidate Carolyn Fayard is as an unedited one. In his previous statewide campaign he seemed more interested in pursuing quixotic themes such as Jindal’s few debate appearances and casting aspersions on the future first lady’s unplanned natural childbirth episode than anything else. Perhaps Georges might think anti-incumbent sentiment is the lesson from the drubbing national Democrats took in 2010, but the real message was anti-liberalism/big government of which he cannot accuse Jindal of being complicit. In fact, if Georges plays the “outsider” card as he tried unsuccessfully to do four years ago it’s unlikely to work after two high-profile campaigns and his involvement as a former commissioner of and forced to resign from the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad that mired itself in controversy on his watch.
So while an objective overview shows Georges doesn’t have much of a chance, playing to his vanity might get him to run anyway. However, even this isn’t certain. State Democrats are undergoing a switch in political leadership, as black politicians complete a takeover of the party in government. If they and their allies are to have a white candidate who can tap into plenty of family resources, they’ll want one like Fayard who will throw red meat rhetorically to the base, whipping it up and putting money where her mouth is to help candidates in lower-level offices so they aren’t likely to lend much enthusiastic support to semi-Republican Georges. And while the official party apparatus remains run by the white section of the party, its paucity of resources and disorganized, dispirited apparatus can lend little assistance to any candidate at any level.
In the end, sheer personal vanity, regardless of how much support others express, may be enough to get Georges in the contest, if nowhere near winning it. Perceiving yourself as important, having the political and journalistic glitterati taking you seriously, and encountering smatterings of fawning supporters can do wonders to boost an ego. But six months from now the practical and only impact of it all probably would be as economic development provided to political consultants and media concerns.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 10:10