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Boustany does best, but Kennedy still Senate favorite

While the first U.S. Senate debate for Louisiana’s open seat presented the chance for the major candidates to put themselves on the paths they believed best to make for winning coalitions, the second would show well they could progress given the constraints inherent to those choices. Last night the consequences of those choices became clear, leading on the whole between both debates a performance most convincing to voters.

Starting with the least effective, that only could be the one contestant who did not inflict himself upon the viewing audience at the first one, invited just to the second. David Duke showed himself a joke on multiple occasions. The Republican, who has lived most of his life off of other people’s donations, made some valid general remarks, concerning government’s propensity to accumulate power to favor certain interests, but some of the details showed he has no connection to reality, such as his insisting a cabal of Jewish bankers wield too much political power in the world.

A quarter of a century ago, when running for senator and governor and racking up significant numbers of votes, he stuck with the generalities and understandably fooled many into supporting him on those occasions. But with time, his history since then, and an environment that provides far fuller information on candidates today, he probably thought he had nothing to lose by taking off his mask to reveal the beliefs that expose his general unfitness for elective office.

Democrat lawyer Caroline Fayard has a better grasp of reality, but comes off merely as ignorant or deluded. Like Duke, she did adequately when sticking to general themes, like generational change or alleging she could assist the middle class against the wealthy who supposedly don’t “pay their fair share.” It’s the details that makes her seem like a bubblehead. For example, nobody seriously can claim the wealthy – let’s define them as those making about $450,000 a year and above or the top 5 percent of adjusted gross income – don’t pay their “fair share” when they pay nearly three-fifths of all federal income taxes.

Sticking her foot farther in her mouth, she repeated bogus claims about unequal pay for women and support for raising the minimum wage – somehow not realizing that the non-wealthy she would purport to help would be hurt by such a scheme. Nobody can take such a candidate seriously.

The same, although in a different way, applies to Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who alleges he’s for the little guy against evil corporations yet also seems blissfully unaware of how his policy preferences work against the people’s interests. Taking an example from a topic the debate never touched (the paucity of coverage largely due to Duke’s frequent remonstrations and avoidance in answering certain questions), Campbell faith in the myth of significant anthropogenic climate change, as reflected policy made through recent federal government rulemaking, will cost a net millions of jobs.

As truncated as the debate topics were, still enough of these came up to show Campbell lost in the policy fog. He spent perhaps his most time on a question about taxation where he railed against companies moving resources offshore and thereby generating untaxed profits, and said he would stump for measures to capture those that could involve raising corporate taxes. Of course, going completely over his head is that the U.S. has the world’s highest marginal corporate tax rates which is why they move money offshore in the first place, so Campbell’s ideas to prevent that will cause even more capital and jobs to flee the country. Again, the shallow thinking on the issues that he demonstrates ill-suits representing Louisiana in the Senate.

The front-runner, Republican Treasurer John Kennedy, did his best to stay on his path of vague, folksy bromides that argued fiscal problems would disappear without promoting so much “waste” in government that gets there because of entrenched politicians in Washington. When other candidates challenged him on some actions short of parsimony in his treasurer capacity or concerning his support of liberal policies and candidates prior to a decade ago, rather than defend or explain these (with the exception of pointing out other individuals who, like he, had changed parties from Democrat to Republican), he either left these unaddressed or termed these “lies.”

Befitting his status and strategy of running against Washington, viewers could expect little more. What few specifics Kennedy did get into in short answer questions revealed conservative preferences and in other venues he shows greater depth of thought, yet the viewer causally interested in politics tuning in for guidance on a vote decision might have thought him less than willing to spell out exactly what he would do and why, other than stamp out “waste.”

Republican Rep. John Fleming gave much more in the way of specific policy preferences and justifications for these, all solid. Yet the manner by which he went about it diminished the seriousness of his performance. Constant reminders of his conservatism and of his self-moniker as “the one true conservative” in the contest didn’t do this so much as how he tried so hard to find ways to attack mostly Kennedy, sometimes GOP Rep. Charles Boustany (a reverse of the previous debate).

Fleming is a serious candidate with serious ideas, particularly in contrast to the Democrats and Duke, but in the debate did not give a very good sense of that in his eagerness to show himself as the most conservative of the bunch. The casual viewer seeking guidance for a vote decision might have taken his apparent self-distraction as a lack of heft necessary in an elected official.

Of all candidates across both debates, Boustany came off as the most measured and knowledgeable, as he tried to further the image of somebody who gets results in a conservative direction. If anything, he tended to become a bit tongue-tied and prone to wandering in the weeds with some of his policy explanations and in assertion of results of his actions, which might have caused some viewers to glaze over. That he seemed most policy- and result-oriented doesn’t mean he has the best ideas, but he carried these off on stage in convincing fashion.

So, if judging both forums on the criterion of how well together these advanced the chances of a candidate to win, Boustany narrowly outpaced Fleming. But even if Kennedy trailed, he did little to damage his chances that at this point continue to install him as the favorite.

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