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Postponed election likely negatively impacts Carmouche

Sec. of State Jay Dardenne’s recommendation that Gov. Bobby Jindal reschedule congressional primary elections to Oct. 4 changes dynamics in contests, one in a major way, and carries with it a hint of irony as well.

Dardenne maintains a four-week delay is necessary to ensure all the infrastructure for the elections assuredly will be in place. It also helps out those candidates that otherwise might have been scrambling for quick fundraising had these been postponed only a week or two, as I noted recently. Four weeks buys a couple of weeks worth of begging for money, and then allocated in the last couple of weeks instead of having no chance to raise funds for a last-week blitz that a short delay would have turned into two or three weeks.

Still, candidates lagging their fields do get helped by this, as they have nowhere to go but up with an extra 28 days. But what truly will be interesting is that the chain reaction puts party runoffs on national election day Nov. 4 if there are any (if not, the general election occurs in those contests) and then on Dec. 6 would be the general election, over a month behind the rest of the country.

This will have a dramatic impact on one House contest. The Fourth District’s Republican nomination will not be settled on Oct. 4 so there will be a runoff on Nov. 4. This is to the major disadvantage of any Democrat running, although it is highly likely that their nomination will be won by next month by former Caddo District Attorney Paul Carmouche. His problem is that, in the conservative district where he has been somewhat unconvincingly been trying to place himself as a moderate, he will need strong black turnout to overcome whichever genuine conservative emerges as the GOP nominee. He would have a decent chance at that, were the general election on Nov. 4 with Sen. Barack Obama heading the Democrat ticket for president.

But on Dec. 6, this contest will be only one of two in the country (the Second District being the other as no Democrat will win the nomination outright, but whoever does will be extremely likely to win the seat on this day). There will be no black candidate topping the ticket to draw black votes to the polls on behalf of Carmouche. Worse for him, if Obama goes down to defeat the month prior, the palpable disappointment will depress black turnout even further. This will make his trying to win in this kind of district more difficult.

There’s some irony to the postponement, as one of the major reasons why the blanket primary was abandoned for federal elections in Louisiana was legal restrictions forced contests to be decided after the rest of the country voted. Here, the first federal elections after changing the law, the same is exceptionally likely to happen in two cases.


Gustav handling boosts Jindal but Palin still out front

Undoubtedly Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal acquitted himself well in his handling of the Hurricane Gustav crisis which led to few deaths, far fewer and with much less destruction than with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He had help – New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin seemed to have learned lessons from his inadequate response in 2005, other local officials around the southern part of the state performed well, and Orleans-area levees appeared to be in better shape – and a little luck – Gustav was a little weaker and struck more of a glancing blow than Katrina – but management of a crisis always starts at the top so the major credit goes to Jindal.

For the moment, it strengthened his national political stature and boosted his pecking order in the Republican Party. But make no mistake, as I demonstrated last week, Jindal cannot rise any higher than second as long as the party’s vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin does not self-destruct. If she wants to pursue a presidential nomination in 2012 (if she and presidential nominee Sen. John McCain fail this year or they succeed and he wants to stay for just a term) or 2016, it’s hers to lose.

So far, in her mere days in the national spotlight, Palin is reinvigorating the party and promising to bring it back to its conservative roots which were responsible for the party’s electoral and the country’s policy successes. Realistically, her impact on people’s voting decisions will not be large but it could matter in a close race. But if on her own, running for the nomination to the office, so far the returns are impressive. Jindal, for all his skills and now considering her added exposure, will not be able to compete effectively against her.

But of more immediate concern is the impact Jindal made in Louisiana with his crisis-management skills. They will serve to smooth bumps in the road of his own doing, his dithering during the last regular session over coming on board a realistic individual income tax cut and over shooting down with a near-last-minute veto an absurdly gratuitous full-time pay raise for part-time legislators. Jindal may have feared future reactions from legislators by hanging out so many of them to dry by putting them on record with this toxic vote, but there’s no political ill that popularity can’t cure. If as a result of this episode Jindal finds his public approval at the level it was before the regular session began, he will have mooted their damaging effects.

Conservatives often do not govern as effectively as they could, precisely because they see government as a last resort that otherwise intrudes upon liberty. (Contrast this to the liberal conception of government as a desirable change agent to be used as the lead plow horse to remake society and people in the way they deem best.) If there’s one thing Jindal has shown in his several months in office, regardless of political missteps, is that he does know administration and can provide leadership. This crisis provided an (unwanted) opportunity to put it on display.


Primary elections postponing helps some, hurts others

Did part of Sec. of State Jay Dardenne’s decision to recommend to Gov. Bobby Jindal (who took this advice of) postponing the weekend’s elections come out of concern that some candidates might be differentially affected by the impact of Hurricane Gustav, as I mused recently? If so, he’s not telling but that so quickly it was declared that conditions, even in places that only got a lot of rain, would be too disruptive to hold it on time was surprising.

Regardless, dynamics will be affected in two contests. Incumbent Rep. Rodney Alexander will not be affected by any delays as he will mop up any opposition whenever an election is held and incumbent Rep. Steve Scalise will do the same to whoever is opponent may be. Nor will Democrat Paul Carmouche running really be affected in the Fourth District as he is expected to win outright despite date changes. Contests that could be affected include the Republican side for that district and the Second District Democrat contest.

The chief factors that could be altered are those of momentum and money. Some candidates who may have been doing well earlier may find they were beginning to slide as time went by, so they will be unhappy at this delay, while others not making much progress will be given extra time to rectify that. Others built spending strategies based around the date; for example, a heavy ad blitz with big expenditures right before the election may have been believed to pay off with a runoff spot and momentum where more money could then be raised. But without such a reward, these campaigns now will be punished as, unless their candidates are wealthy, their coffers will be low without much ability to get ad time next week (or even the week after, as Dardenne has hinted there could be a two week or even more delay).

In the Second, the delay helps incumbent Rep. Bill Jefferson since his resources depends the least upon others. He can sink more personal wealth and use the advantages of his office during the extended period. Others will scramble to find money in a challenging environment. It also gives new life to slow-developing candidacies like those of Jefferson Parish Councilman Byron Lee and state Rep. Cedric Richmond who appear to have been languishing, providing overtime for them to try to turn things around.

In the Fourth, Bossier City attorney Jeff Thompson is the most adversely affected. The latest comer into the race with the fewest resources including his own, he was starting to get momentum on his side that may be interrupted by a money crunch, a period where the two candidates who largely self-financed their campaigns Minden physician John Fleming and Shreveport executive Chris Gorman can more easily adapt. Indications were Fleming and Thompson were headed to the runoff but that could change as a result of this interruption.

Whether postponement occurred, the storm was going to make an impression on these races. Whether this decision will significantly affect them remains to be seen.


Landrieu, Blanco revise history as result of latest storm

Politics took a welcome and needed backseat to performance as Louisiana dealt with Hurricane Gustav. But, unfortunately, only for a short time as the imperatives of historical revisionism got some Democrat females to talking.

Perhaps former Gov. Kathleen Blanco can be forgiven for asserting that the impressive display of implementation put on by the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration was in part built on changes in emergency response started during her term. The muted credit-grabbing by current officials would have been unlikely to include her and she continues to seek rehabilitation for a reputation that, honestly and regrettably, she deserves for her mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina episode in 2005.

That is so because her reminding neglected to mention anything about “Hurricane Pam” in 2004. Few remember that because it didn’t exist; it was an exercise conducted by governments coordinated by the federal government during Blanco’s first year in office that history subsequently showed eerily paralleled Katrina. While it focused more on the aftermath of a storm, the associated press release also noted some things to be done in anticipation of such a storm with a quote from the Blanco Administration that “[o]ver the next 60 days, we will polish the action plans developed during the Hurricane Pam exercise. We have also determined where to focus our efforts in the future.” If any of this ever was done the next year, it seemed never to have been used or was irrelevant.

A few months later, real-life Hurricane Ivan followed and, while it missed Louisiana, it again could have been a useful test run. Certainly it’s good that Blanco learned from Katrina and set the stage for future administrations to profit from her experiences. But while Jindal seemed to do that, the inconvenient truth is that Blanco (and others) did not learn from the exercise or other prior opportnities given her response to events a little more than a year later, to the detriment of the state.

But it is difficult to forgive Sen. Mary Landrieu’s disingenuous remarks that, aware that work on the levee system in the greater New Orleans area was incomplete, this work should have been commenced three decades ago to have it completely ready by now. Such a remark implies either Landrieu doesn’t know, or refuses to admit, that work was to have started on comprehensive flood control in 1977 – only to be shot down by environmentalists that today often ally with her which delayed the project for years and produced some missing some potentially crucial elements to an overall response.

Regardless, Landrieu has had 12 years in office to have advocated getting things going in this regard. But, prior to 2005, not only did she seem disinterested in the whole issue, she actually worked against it in order to fund pork and boondoggles.

More should have done more expeditiously, and many past and current elected officials share blame. But for Landrieu to lecture others after having been one of these slackers shows just how much integrity she is willing to sacrifice in order to win reelection this fall.


Gustav may alter LA 2nd District election dynamics

As this posting gets published, Hurricane Gustav is making landfall south of Houma, meaning high winds will come to its east and a drenching along a path to the northwest. Its track seems to indicate it will hit minimally populated, presumably evacuated areas. But wind and possible tornadoes also take their toll especially east in the Second Congressional District. How will this unfortunate scenario impact elections coming up in five days?

Its direct path appears to avoid any place with a primary election, required only for federal offices. But the 2nd District does have its high profile Democrat primary where embattled Rep. Bill Jefferson tries to hang onto office, which at this moment almost is totally devoid of people (or at least of registered voters). Realistically and optimistically, mandatory evacuation orders won’t be lifted until Tuesday, then people will start flowing back, and how many will have returned and have interest in getting to the polls on Saturday is another matter, especially if it turns out some cleanup is involved.

Had things turned out differently, this might be a moot point. Hitting the district more squarely and perhaps a couple of days later probably would have postponed the election, not only because of the general chaos but also as Baton Rouge likely would have borne more of the brunt and this would have made election administration there more difficult. As it is, it would appear an election can occur largely unimpeded.

As a result, certain candidates may be advantaged and disadvantaged. With West Bank levees perhaps the weakest and being the closest to the eye wall, the Jefferson Parish part of the district might see the most potential for damage that would distract from voting, to the presumed detriment of the single Jefferson Parish candidate in the contest parish Councilman Byron Lee. By contrast, with a New Orleans East district already largely depopulated, state Rep. Cedric Richmond will lose proportionally fewer voters from his base.

The only non-black candidate in the race, former media reporter Helena Moreno, might also accrue and electoral advantage as it is believed she will do best among white voters (Democrat and independents are allowed to vote in this primary). While they are in the minority in the district, if she corrals a large plurality of them while the black vote gets fragmented among all other candidates, this should push her into the runoff. Likely of better socio-economic status generally than black voters, these whites may be able to get onto their feet faster after all of this and be in a better position to get to the polls on Saturday.

Intriguingly, perhaps the biggest beneficiary of all this may be Jefferson. With his support the most geographically broad-based and perhaps least popular in Jefferson Parish (where he has trailed in every contested election compared to Orleans except once), his partisans’ lives (maybe excepting Moreno’s) as a whole may be the least affected by the storm and can get more easily to the polls. Former New Orleans councilor Troy Carter’s chances also may be affected less, given he has run before and may have a more solid campaign structure in place than other challengers.

However, it would be ironic if fate in the form of this hurricane twists the political dynamics in such a way that it assists the damaged candidacy of Jefferson, after he appears to have done so much on his own to remove himself from office.