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Incumbent matchup loser may parlay that into Senate

Give Rep. Jeff Landry credit – he’s taking the lemons of reapportionment and turning them into lemonade of a possible extended political career, one way or the other.

The freshman Landry has by no means acted as a shrinking violet in the House of Representatives. During the recent period of extended debate leading to a temporary resolution of the debt issuance issue of the federal government, Landry emerged as a leader among new Republicans shaping their party’s negotiations, eventually voting against the measure that slowed the approach to but did not solve for the economic problems that will result from too much spending. In doing so, he exerted more influence in a few months in Congress than did his predecessor lobbyist. He also has become one of the more outspoken critics of Pres. Barack Obama in Congress, rejecting an invitation to meet with him over a debt deal over concerns Obama had no workable solutions to impart but instead wished to use the meeting with House Republicans as a vehicle for grandstanding.

Some observers speculate that Landry may publicize more his differences with his ideological opponents in Congress and the White House in order to draw a difference between himself and Rep. Charles Boustany, because in reapportionment Louisiana lost a House seat and these two found themselves odd men out after that drawing.
While Boustany is a solid conservative – he scores above 90 lifetime where 100 represents a “perfect” conservative vote in the American Conservative Unions scorecard – Landry has added an anti-establishmentarian dimensions to his own budding strong conservative record, which play well as popular disgust over the federal government on the debt and other spending issues continues to escalate.

The district in which Landry will reside for elections to the 113th Congress favors by numbers Boustany, so it raised a few eyebrows that Landry plans to hold “town hall” meetings in areas currently not part of Landry’s district but will become part of the new district – and that Republican Sen. David Vitter will join him in these. The pair have a friendship that has grown particularly since Landry won his seat, melded not just by their similar ideological views, but their willingness to part ways with existing power structures within the political establishment in advancing that agenda.

While outspokenness runs the risk of alienating those interests in future contests, Landry’s strategy sets himself up for political life beyond this term and looks to shape the state’s electoral politics over the next three years. Vitter’s ideology is popular in the state and the electorate in general has demonstrated its forgiveness for Vitter’s unspecified “serious sin” believed related to prostitution services, so public alignment with Vitter will help Landry in a quest to win election in his newly-fashioned district.

But even if Landry can’t pull that off, the effort leaves him well positioned for a challenge to Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu in 2014. If that ultimately was his intent, one could argue he might want to keep his powder dry and resources not drained by opting out of reelection. But he probably could increase his fundraising potential with a reelection try even with the additional money spent, it would raise his statewide profile, and it would help him expand his campaign organizational capacity for a bigger, future run.

In fact, to some degree the same holds for Boustany. Were Landry to pull the upset, Boustany then can position himself to take on Landrieu. This allows the upcoming likely contest between the House incumbents to offer the consolation prize of taking on Landrieu from a stronger position, and perhaps a bigger long-term prize as, at this time, Landrieu remains vulnerable if for no other reason being the crucial vote to pass health care changes that will start causing higher costs and reduced service during 2014.

Either way, Vitter wins, by helping Landry stay in his current spot in 2012, or leveraging him into an even better one in 2014, creating a stronger and direct ally for him. There’s no downside, as if Landry can’t win either time, it really does not affect Vitter’s political capital. And, obviously, no downside exists for Landry as he has nothing to lose. At this time, these dynamics suggest the only loser in this political environment is Landrieu herself.


Ryan said...

You think that the loser of that race is set up to run against Landrieu? I think that it's more likely to be the winner, especially if it's Landry. John Kennedy ran a poor campaign against her last time and still came pretty close; no one's going to be afraid of Mary this time.

Jeff Sadow said...

I don't think the winner is going to give up a seat hard fought in this round and potential office-for-life after just two years for a crapshoot, unless they feel strongly about self-imposed term limits. As it was, Kennedy's loss wasn't that close but it was a good year for the national Democrats even in LA. Problem there is Kennedy still is not trusted by many voters through his constant reinvention to fit to whatever seems popular at the time. That may change for state office as opposed to national, where he has now been on-message for five years with fiscal (although sometimes inaccurate and unworkable in his presentation of it) conservatism.