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Making runoff best reelection shot for AG Caldwell

Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell’s making it to a runoff in his reelection bid presents his best chance of succeeding in that regard, independent polling information suggests.

The recent media poll of a few of Louisiana’s statewide elections shows the Republican incumbent leading with 30 percent, followed by main challenger Republican former Rep. Jeff Landry at 20 percent, with Democrat lawyers and former government officials Ike Jackson and Geri Broussard-Baloney at 11 and 5 percent, respectively, and with Republican former prosecutor Marty Maley joining her at 5 percent. A significant 28 percent called itself undecided.

Often, these are terrible numbers for an incumbent, not only because after eight years in office Caldwell only draws three-tenths of the intended vote, but because two-sevenths of it says itself to be undecided, which often translates to they don’t want to vote for the incumbent but can’t decide upon which challenger to support (although some will not vote at all). In this case, these merely are only bad numbers, because in a lower-interest contest such as this one a decent portion of the undecided simply have not paid attention to this race and may yet decide to vote for the incumbent.

The worst thing that could have happened to Caldwell was to have drawn a single, black Democrat opponent. As both Jackson’s and Broussard-Baloney’s numbers reaffirm, having a ‘D’ label associated with you is going to get a significant share of the vote even if you spend next to nothing on your campaign. Jackson’s only receipts have come from him and only expenditures to pay for his filing, while Broussard-Baloney, who last year had her law license suspended for six months for unethical behavior but was allowed to fulfill that through probation, reports no contributions or expenditures. Further, both appear black (although Broussard-Baloney listed no racial designation when qualifying), where candidates of that race disproportionately draw votes from blacks, the majority of whom are Democrats.

That’s the same constituency Caldwell may have to hope to attract in order to stay in office, as the former Democrat because of things such as perceived favoritism towards trial lawyers generally is shunned by Republican elites despite his current party label – capped off by the state GOP officially endorsing Landry. Accordingly, a Caldwell triumph depends upon getting a large majority of Democrats’ votes, and blacks make up the majority of Democrat registrations at present.

If it were a runoff situation, Caldwell’s position would not be bad, for he likely would face another Republican, probably Landry. There, he could serve as the lesser of two evils in the eyes of Democrats and would have at least an even chance of winning, as he would get most Democrats’ votes and then need just some Republicans to join them (assuming other identifiers split their votes between the two candidates) to come out on top.

The real danger for him comes in the general election. If enough Democrats vote for labelled Democrat candidates and not him, he could be squeezed out of a runoff. However, Caldwell caught a break because of two labelled Democrats in the contest, which would split voting between them where just a single candidate would benefit from Democrat partisans voting their identifications. Further, while the survey numbers disseminated did not break down the black vote, a significant pool of the undecided may be of black voters and thus of that portion that will vote they will very largely vote for a black and/or Democrat candidate.

This invites intrigue. Certainly, white Democrat elites do not want to see Landry in office and are going to do everything possible to make the black candidates’ campaigns invisible to shore up support for Caldwell. Yet that might not be the case with black Democrat elites, where despite the majority of the party’s registrants looking like them and the majority of state Democrat officeholders also being black, they still represent a minority faction in party governance. If they don’t see a large amount of difference between Caldwell and Landry, they may aid either campaign (more likely Jackson because he has shown some interest in running competitively for over a year and doesn’t have Broussard-Baloney’s baggage) as a way of sending a message to Democrat power elites in the party that their candidates need to be supported more seriously.

Of course, you don’t have to be a Democrat to play this game. If convinced that he will give it a serious go, Republicans may fund quietly Jackson’s efforts, as long as it appears he would not ace out Landry in a runoff situation.

So, the numbers reveal, Caldwell remains most vulnerable prior to the runoff, facing relegation as Landry and perhaps Jackson finish ahead of him. But if he can get to the runoff, he will be in decent shape to serve for another four years.

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