Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne cannot feel too inspired about his chances to retain his post, given the direction his campaign rhetoric has headed. At the same time, his opponent Plaquemines Parish Pres. Billy Nungesser has adopted a strategy more indicative of an incumbent than challenger – a status possibly earned given information in the most recent campaign finance reports.
While Dardenne’s past campaigns focused on outlining his qualifications and ideas for (as boring and inconsequential as they are) the jobs for which he ran, increasingly the tone of this one has evolved into criticism of Nungesser and his endorsers. The latest came when, informed by the media about the campaign reporting figures due yesterday showing Nungesser had loaned his campaign a half-million dollars, bringing his total self-loan to $1 million, Dardenne termed that as “an attempt to buy the office,” and proclaimed, as he has never lent himself money for statewide runs, that “my support has always been from people across the state who believe in what I stand for,” through their donations.
But, interestingly, if that is the metric by which Dardenne measures the worth of a candidacy, Nungesser trumps him. In the latest reporting period, Dardenne raised $266,575, while Nungesser in that period topped him by over six figures with $383,155.
(Note to the Nungesser campaign: while the document filed yesterday was supposed to be the 30P, 30 days to the primary, you marked it as the 180P, 180 days from the primary – you might want to file an amended report.) Perhaps Nungesser added to the loan because he had pledged to match his contributors dollar to dollar – and as of now individual contributors are showing him more than love than to Dardenne.
Perhaps this circumstance has encouraged Nungesser to embark on an odd tactic. Scheduled for early next week, Nungesser personally passed on appearing at two East Baton Rouge candidate forums even though he had committed to them previously and the events he asserted he would attend instead used as excuses to beg off from the forums seem themselves to have been long in the making. Typically, challengers desire these opportunities and incumbents avoid them, because they present chances to snipe at the incumbent’s record and make it appear the challenger has equal status.
That they take place on Dardenne’s home turf may discourage Nungesser from attending, but the audiences (Republicans, at least some of whom would support Nungesser despite being in Dardenne’s backyard, and media reporters, the majority of whom in this contest probably sympathize with Dardenne but knowing the public nature of the event probably would be restrained in displaying any overt favoritism) would not be expected to convey much bias against Nungesser. In this sense, Nungesser acts like a favorite playing it safe, with a set of explanations for his absence that don’t seem very convincing (he did say he would send a surrogate, but that creates distance between him and any controversy that might erupt from his surrogate’s answers, makes Dardenne look less the incumbent, and may cheapen the event in the eyes of the sponsors so that they would reject the notion).
Confirmation that Dardenne feels the office slipping away from him would come with increasingly shrill attacks on Nungesser while decreasingly talking about the office – a typical maneuver for someone perceinving himself as an underdog – and that if Nungesser senses he’s in the lead he’ll respond by avoiding chances to make mistakes. As such, this would represent an interesting role reversal.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 14:30