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Smart GOP campaigning will bring Democrats misery

The head of the Louisiana Democrats, Chris Whittington, has had to do an awful lot of whistling into the wind these past couple of years, and he was working up to a grand finale of it when asked about his party’s chances in the remaining legislative contests on Nov. 17.

Whittington asserted that “polling” showed that, of 17 House races remaining that did not pit a Democrat vs. Democrat, he saw Democrats ahead in 13 with one undecided. For the Senate, he conceded just one of four with one also too close to call.

One must wonder who did this “polling,” or if it even was done. In the Senate, I guess the one that will get away is in District 32 where Republican Neal Riser came within 550 votes of winning Oct. 20 with 49 percent. Maybe the one that is up-in-the-air is District 25 where although Republican state Rep. Blade Morrish trailed Democrat state Rep. Gil Pinac 39-32 percent, a Republican newcomer got 30 percent of the vote – and the bulk of that will be going to Morrish.

Likewise, Whittington appears to be doing a Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm imitation with his House numbers. There are several districts where the sum of total Democrat votes are less than the sum of Republican votes (and in the one Democrat vs. no party contest, adding the GOP votes to the latter goes over the 50 percent mark), and a few others where GOP candidates scored better than 40 percent or a combination of the runoff and defeated Republicans get that high. In other words, three or four seats not won by Democrats seem optimistic to say the least.

Throughout the election season Whittington has offered a Pollyanna view of Democrats’ chances (such as his last comments on the governor’s race). But his hopes may come close to realization if state Republicans let it. Without Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal or outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom on the ballot, because some incentives to vote for those interested in reform may have gone away, the party and its campaigning candidates may squander this opportunity to come close to a House majority and to make minor gains in the Senate.

To make Whittington look foolish again, Republicans needs to take the following steps:

  • While Jindal has said he won’t get involved in legislative races (and rightly so, as personal interjection of himself against potential winners may alienate them), that doesn’t mean his campaign organization can’t; some donations here and there and lending of certain resources and personnel can go a long way to shaping a Legislature more to his liking.
  • Defeated Republicans need to endorse those Republicans in runoffs who are willing to embrace reform and conservative values.
  • The state party and allied organizations need to target their resources wisely; for example, best not give additional aid to contests like Senate District 7 where the Democrat was just a few hundred votes from winning and the only Republican trailed by 17 points in the primary.

    While it’s certainly possible that reformers and Republicans disproportionately won’t show up at the polls for the general election runoff, it’s a possibility that can be obviated by smart electioneering by Republicans, to make this an even more miserable legislative election cycle than Democrats wanted to endure.
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