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Gov. field practically set, pushing Vitter to victory
State Rep. John Bel Edwards can breathe a sigh of relief. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne have decisions to make. And so do Louisiana Democrats.
When New Orleans City Councilman Jason Williams publicly announced, after interest got stirred about the possibility, that he would not run for governor, this effectively meant the last opportunity for the contest to change as a result of an additional beyond these men and Sen. David Vitter had passed. Williams is thought to contemplate running for mayor of New Orleans in 2018 and a gubernatorial candidacy could have increased his profile in that regard in a cost effective manner – especially as he would have received support from some not so much because those believed in his candidacy but because they saw one of the other four as obnoxious.
At this late date Williams could have influenced the race because, as a black Democrat with a record of capturing enough votes to win something more than an office with a relatively trivial amount of power, he could have drawn (unlike others) a significant amount of votes as even a subdued but not practically invisible campaign effort would be enough to alert black voters to his presence in the contest. Now with two months to go to the election, no non-black candidate or black candidate not a proven vote-getter for an office of significant stature has enough time to make enough of an impact to change the dynamics of the contest, given the compressed time frame involved.
And these are that Vitter and Edwards will score roughly the same number of votes that between them will total two-thirds of the electorate voting and Angelle and Dardenne will share the remainder, thereby mathematically eliminating the latter pair from winning. Vitter has too much money and too much support already built in to falter among the Republican candidates, while enough yellow dogs exist that will see Edwards through as he shares no quality Democrat competition.
At the point now where no other entrant into the race can change this dynamic, only the existing candidates or aggregate choices made within the electorate can. Simply, in the first instance, one of Angelle or Dardenne must drop out to give the other a chance if either feel so strongly that Vitter should not be elected.
That seems unlikely. Both have spent years laying the groundwork for this attempt, neither feels any special antipathy towards Vitter to want to deny him the job out of spite, and each knows that not only is the other perhaps the only candidate in the contest that might defeat him in the runoff yet that runoff pairing is extremely unlikely, but also that if he lands in a runoff with Vitter or Edwards he becomes the heavy favorite. There is no reason for either to throw away this chance.
So only if the electorate’s dynamics change does the Vitter-Edwards runoff matchup, which while offering Edwards his best chance of winning still leaves him as a distinct underdog, not occur. And that can happen only if enough Democrats vote tactically in an “anybody but Vitter” mode, by abandoning Edwards in favor of Angelle of Dardenne.
But it remains questionable whether a broad swath of Democrats in the electorate detest a Vitter governorship so much as to jettison their otherwise sure-fire runoff entry. Vitter does carry a populist streak that makes him appear tolerable to some Louisiana Democrats, and it seems inconceivable that Democrat elites would call publicly so boldly for the mass base of the state party to give Edwards short electoral shrift, which is the only way enough votes can head either Angelle or Dardenne’s way – and overwhelmingly to one as opposed to the other or else Edwards would run second. With these leaders having endorsed formally Edwards, the chances of such a turnabout seem remote.
So, absent one of these essentially near-miraculous developments, that two months out from the general election the present four quality candidates running continue as the only such candidates strengthens the dynamic present for the last year. That is Vitter and Edwards make the runoff, where Vitter wins. Only an unforced error by either candidate can change that impeding sequence of events.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 09:20