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Foti miscalculation may harm Democrats' chances further

It appears that Louisiana Atty. Gen. Charles Foti will accept an invitation at least to review the question of whether former senator and Louisiana resident John Breaux has continued to be a “citizen” of the state. In doing so, an if we take Breaux at his word that a negative decision will dissuade him from attempting the race, Foti either can bring the state Democrats back from the brink of the political abyss, or perhaps plunge them in further.

Perhaps Breaux should be listening to fellow Democrat state Sen. Noble Ellington, who has realized among others that a Breaux candidacy would be a very poor gamble for the party’s fortunes. Despite wishful thinking on the part by Democrats, the legal odds rest very much against Breaux being declared a “citizen” of the state for he past five years as required by the state Constitution for governor, for that optimistic view rests on an interpretation that would permit even non-U.S. citizens to qualify. Democrats risk having no candidate capable of winning on the ballot at all come Oct. 20, so prudence dictates finding somebody whose qualification chances are certain.

But the political problems are perhaps even more insurmountable. A challenge to Breaux’s candidacy would drag on, even expedited, close to the election date itself, covering his candidacy in unflattering connotations, with months of prior unfavorable publicity by two, perhaps three, well-financed Republican challengers. While Breaux would be vulnerable on many fronts, his most glaring weakness would be he could not fend off accusations that he was part of a good-old-boy network trying to preserve its power by twisting the Constitution out of shape. This would be political disaster to all Democrats running at all levels, validating the suspicion of many state voters that Louisiana Democrats are too corrupt to be entrusted with running the state’s government.

Maybe Foti and Breaux realize this and have concocted this strategy to buy time to see whether a campaign with a realistic chance of winning can be salvaged (already a majority of voters statewide, in a hypothetical contest with Breaux, say they would choose GOP Rep. Bobby Jindal, who leads Breaux by 30 percent) and whether another Democrat candidate suitable to the party’s leadership’s tastes can be recruited. Foti would take his time and then issue an opinion against the question, allowing Breaux gracefully to withdraw and then unveiling the new candidate.

However, if either has let hubris cloud their political decision-making abilities, they threaten to let loose the dire consequences of creating a discredited candidacy that reduces all Democrats’ sate office chances in the fall. Among those would be Foti, who must know his opinion will have no bearing on then ultimate outcome of any challenge and who already has risked his reelection by zealously pursuing (with questionable constitutional authority to do so) a malpractice/murder case that seems doubtful. No matter what he says about it, a favorable ruling will make Foti seem corrupt and will reduce his reelection chances further.

While Republicans publicly already have launched efforts to dissuade Foti and Breaux, privately they may be thinking about Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, as these Democrats may be talking themselves into an unmitigated electoral disaster.

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