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Outsider perception guiding LA contests for Congress

As expected, of the three contests left for federal elective office in the 2016 cycle in Louisiana (and the nation), the one featuring an intra-party battle looks the most interesting, if polling data prove correct. Yet all three ratify the notion that 2016 is the year of anti-establishmentarian politics.

After most survey outfits missed the call in the presidential contest (and quite a few other statewide races across the country), one might question legitimately the accuracy of surveys of Louisiana’s Third and Fourth Congressional District runoffs as well as that for the Senate. But not only do these align with conventional wisdom, they also came from one of the few pollsters to pick accurately the electoral college win of Pres.-elect Donald Trump. (Note: I was one of the respondents for two of these, and judging from the demographics the sampling seems right.) And these bring bad news for Democrats.

For the Senate, Republican Treasurer John Kennedy holds a 58-35 percent lead over Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (numbers throughout include both definite and leaning vote intentions). Campbell’s only lead occurs in CD 2, with its 63 percent black registration and, somewhat humiliating, trailed Kennedy by 21 points in his home CD 4. It’s hard to win statewide when picking up just over 20 percent of the white vote and barely half of your own partisans, while Kennedy picked up five out of every six Republicans and a majority of other/no party voters.

A similar blowout on a smaller scale seems in the offing for CD 4, where Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson leads Democrat lawyer Marshall Jones 60-35 percent. Again, if as Jones does by picking up just one-sixth of the white vote, there’s no way he can win.

Which leaves as the only competitive contest that for the all-GOP CD 3, where the survey had law enforcement officer Clay Higgins out in front of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle 50-42 percent. The outsider Higgins takes 54 percent of the white vote in a district where 72 percent of registrants claim that racial designation. At this point, the insider Angelle has to hope he can draw even utilizing the 28 percent of blacks responding as undecided, although his advantage among blacks is only 46-26 percent.

Worse for him, historically in this district between Republicans huge roll-off occurs from general election to runoff, and disproportionately so. In the 2012 contest, whites turned out in November at just over 68.5 percent, about two points higher than blacks. But then, as part of the overall 48 point plunge in turnout for December, white turnout dropped 45 points and black turnout a stunning 58 points. If this happens again, Angelle has no chance.

Interestingly, all three have sorts of outsider credentials. Higgins became the favorite in CD 3 precisely because of the unambiguity of his, but, even as Kennedy has remained part of Louisiana’s state government for three decades, for years he has gone to great lengths to emphasize separation between and independence from himself and whomever governed, and Johnson’s articulate and intelligent championing of socially conservative causes – which built a base that got him into the runoff – made many policy-makers, even Republicans, regard him with caution. By contrast, both Campbell and Jones are political insiders of long standing; the former at the state level, the latter in local judicial contests.

And this would be the year that outsider credentials proved valuable, with an electorate so skeptical of existing elites and their political networks that they sent an untested commodity to the White House. These impending results reflect entirely the increasingly anti-establishmentarian mood of the country that will subside only when governing elites act in ways that calm the majority’s fears that policy ignores its wishes.

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