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Veterans' Day, 2015

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday before noon (sometimes after; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is on another day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas.

With Wednesday, Nov. 11 being Veterans' Day, I invite you to explore the links connected to this page.


Debate brightens Vitter's gubernatorial chances

Perhaps Republican Sen. David Vitter in retrospect will regret not trying harder to attend more televised debates earlier in the gubernatorial campaign from the way he mopped the floor with Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards in the first of two runoff debates for the office.

Each candidate brought a different agenda to the spectacle. Vitter, who needs to tap into the right-of-center Louisiana electorate’s natural tendencies, had to keep the affair focused on issues and ideology. He also had to look for chances to tie Edwards to general dissatisfaction over fiscal budgeting in the Legislature, with a special emphasis on exposing where the rhetoric of the leader of House Democrats clashed with his actual record as a proxy attack on his credibility. For his part, Edwards had to dodge revelation of issues preferences where his liberalism and comity with Pres. Barack Obama stood out, preferably by keeping the spotlight on alleged character comparisons. In addition, he could look to launch selective attacks on Vitter’s record in Washington and join him to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who many hold responsible for the state’s fiscal uncertainties with whom he and the Legislature cooperated in producing.

And both embarked on their charted courses, except Vitter ended up chugging along while Edwards hit numerous roadblocks. Granted, Vitter had the advantage in that the debate sponsors Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the interest group Council for a Better Louisiana designed it mainly to focus on issues, but the degree to which he successfully parried Edwards’ attacks while keeping Edwards on the defensive impressed.

Endorsement choices illustrate LA GOP shortcomings

While state general election results confirmed that Republicans remain Louisiana’s majority party, the behavior of some of its leading elected officials shows it has yet to learn how to govern in the fashion the state deserves and needs.

When the dust settles after Nov. 21, the GOP almost certainly will have extended slightly its legislative majorities and should continue to maintain an iron grip on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. However, it may not replicate its sweep of statewide elective offices, and most vexingly the one most likely to flip would be the most important, governor.

Although endorsements typically sway few voters, in this apparently close race they could make the difference. And so the failure not only of third-placed gubernatorial candidate Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle to endorse second-placed Republican Sen. David Vitter in the runoff, but also the endorsement by fourth-placed Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne of the first-placed Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards could prove costly to the GOP retaining the governor’s mansion.


LA Democrats indeed dead, but not yet gone

With all due respect to Shreveport native and political analyst Charlie Cook (who once graciously guest lectured in one of my classes), he’s only half-right when he declares that if Republican Sen. David Vitter wins the upcoming gubernatorial runoff “we can declare Louisiana’s Democratic Party dead and gone.”

With that statement, he tries to make the point that for this specific election, Democrats have had everything go their way. Despite general majority public support for his issue preferences, Vitter has run an indifferent campaign that only occasionally exploits that advantage. He carries with him the taint of Washington, an uncomfortable past admission, and a take-no-prisoners style of politics that while adhering to Louisiana’s populist heritage does so at the cost of making it too easy for members of his own party to get hung up on personality rather than issues that then becomes divisive.

These dynamics allowed his runoff opponent Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards to take his blank slate and manipulate the less attentive public into thinking he is much more moderate than his lifetime Louisiana Legislature Log voting score of 25, one of the most liberal/populist among all legislators in his period in the Legislature, shows he really is. These also have kept the contest discourse much more on personality than on policy, to the GOP’s disadvantage as over the past decade Republicans have proven if they make elections ideological, they win.