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Picture for Democrat gubernatorial retention still dim

Speculation continues to swirl around the governor’s contest later this year. Let me provide an update on my previous prognosis which provides no more additional hope for Democrats despite hypotheses advancing new hopefuls.

The central fact is that, as long as Gov. Kathleen Blanco stays in the race, a Democrat cannot win short of a miracle. The problem is compounded by the near-certain entrance of Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell into the contest. In an electoral environment already challenging by the numbers for a Democrat, both of these in the race will take few voters from any projected GOP candidate but would grab a significant portion from any other Democrat that is electable.

This becomes most dangerous if there are two strong Republicans in the race, such as U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal who is as certain to run as is Campbell and Blanco, and state Sen. Walter Boasso who has given it some thought. In this scenario, the most likely outcome with an additional Democrat in would be a general election runoff between the two Republicans. No politically-smart Democrat would run in this environment because those dynamics make the odds long even for a quality Democrat – what few the party has to offer statewide at this time.

Even without Blanco, a lot of things would have to happen right for a Democrat to win given that Jindal and/or Boasso will be in the field. Perhaps the strongest Democrat of names circulated, U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, has expressed as much disinterest in the job as Blanco has expressed interest. Treasurer John Kennedy is more likely to switch parties to face Sen. Mary Landrieu in her 2008 reelection bid. Former Democrat state chairman Jim Bernhard may have a lot of money, but his past association with Blanco and the impression he used his connections in state government to land lucrative contracts for his business interests in the wake of Hurricane Katrina make him not a viable candidate. Campbell, of course, appeals to a populist slice in the state that, thankfully, now is too small on its own to elect a candidate statewide if up against quality opponents like Jindal or Boasso.

This leaves at best somebody of the stature of former U.S. House member Chris John to enter if Blanco defers – a solid candidate but one who was trounced statewide in the 2004 Senate contest and who has been out of the spotlight for three years. Simply, both Jindal and Boasso in the past couple of years have built impressive records that have removed their political rookie status and shored up confidence in voters. Combined with the fact that some of the racist Democrats who disproportionately voted against Jindal in 2003 apparently have left the state, either can beat heads up any Democrat out there.

With the colossi of Jindal and Boasso on the GOP side, there is no apparent savior at this time for Democrats to keep this office.

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