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Different dynamics distract Democrats from playbook

The leading Democrats running for Louisiana’s U.S. Senate open seat have a renewed chance to run their party’s decades-old campaign playbook that worked so well last year in electing Gov. John Bel Edwards – except the election dynamics of 2016 differ so greatly from those in 2015.

America’s political left understands that its agenda cannot win elections in most states or nationwide because the factual record and logic support conservative policy preferences. Hence, liberals’ political party, the Democrats, seeks to turn elections into referenda about Republican candidates’ personalities in order to distract from issues.

Edwards did that to perfection against pre-race favorite GOP Sen. David Vitter, whose admitted “serious sin” likely meaning dalliance with prostitutes over a decade ago, provided the perfect example to argue that Vitter lacked character and dimmed the spotlight on issues. However, Edwards could not have won without the aid of major Republican candidates: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, now running for Congress, and his current Commissioner of Administration, then lieutenant governor, Jay Dardenne.

They joined Edwards in the personal attacks against Vitter, each hoping at Vitter’s expense to secure a place in the runoff, where each thought he could defeat Edwards. Instead, they sent a weakened Vitter into the runoff with Edwards. Then, more mindful of their political futures than of supporting the issue preferences they alleged to espouse, Angelle refused to back Vitter, and Dardenne endorsed Edwards.

Now with recent revelations of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s boorish remarks concerning women, Democrats Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and former lieutenant governor candidate Caroline Fayard could use the incident to distract from discussion of their issue preferences at odds with a majority of the electorate. In this variation, they would replace Vitter with Trump and impugn by association the leading Republican candidates State Treasurer John Kennedy and Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming, using the trio’s public intentions of voting for Trump against them.

Neither has done so yet. Each issued a statement condemning Trump’s remarks but went no further. Both opined that Trump disrespected women, and Campbell added Trump endorsed violence against women.

Yet even these circumspect responses carry risks. Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s callous treatment of and insensitive statements about a 12-year-old female rape victim concerning her legal defense of the girl’s assaulter seems morally worse than Trump’s idle nauseous boasting. Compounding that, Clinton viciously rhetorically attacked women whose claims of sexual affairs with and/or abuse from husband Bill later were revealed to be true. She worked behind the scenes to help manage the accusations.

If the Democrats cast aspersions against the Republicans over vote intentions for a supposed sexist, the GOP candidates can ask them whether they disavow a standard-bearer who seemingly takes the sides of men exploiting women. Risking turning off base Democrat supporters, Campbell already demonstrates such nervousness at being associated with Clinton that he refuses to say he will vote for her and says only that he “supports” her. Fayard, who expresses eagerness to vote for Clinton, makes herself exceptionally vulnerable to such a question since she worked as an intern for Hillary Clinton just before Bill Clinton in court statements lied about multiple affairs.

This fall’s differing election dynamics mean that, as Democrats in all Louisiana political races contend with an electorate that polls say will deliver Trump a double-digit state victory, they will be reticent to tie Republican candidates to Trump’s remarks. Any such attempts will be brief and quickly fizzle, helping to confirm that these days in Louisiana the Democrat playbook works only as a rare lightning strike not as a reliable template to achieve victory.

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