No major party ever has nominated someone without any experience in government office. All without any elective experience, or appointive experience to the executive or judicial branches at the state or federal level, served in high-ranking military positions. Even the least politically-experienced nominee, newspaper publisher Horace Greeley, served a few months in Congress almost a quarter of a century before receiving his nomination by the Democrats.
Trump’s success largely comes from frustration that many Republican voters have from Democrats in office who, with increasing success and brazenness, have transformed the country away from the fundamental principles behind its founding, and with Republicans officeholders seemingly unwilling to stand athwart of this sellout. Seen foremost by many as a successful businessman whose blunt style and win-at-all-costs attitude, reinforced by his celebrity status, this ultimate outsider status gave him cachet as someone so alien to current officeholders who themselves seem so alienated from the many that he has the greatest capacity to disrupt a system increasingly seen as detached from the people, if not corrupt.
Because of his shallow understanding of issues where his issue preferences seem more rooted in self-interest and ego-boosting than in any coherent ideology, Trump has unlocked centripetal and centrifugal forces around the party. He can both expand the party base by attracting populist Democrats, who see shadowy forces at home and abroad exploiting the people that he promises to stop, and contract it by losing principled conservatives who don’t see much conservatism nor realistic details emerging from his policies and consider him too random to trust in governing wisely. These impressions will impact down-ballot contests in Louisiana and the rest of the country, for he will encourage some Democrats that vote for him also to look at Louisiana candidates for other office, while some conservatives, unable to stomach a vote for the zombified political insider Hillary Clinton who will win the Democrats’ nomination, will stay home rather than take a flier on Trump.
In Louisiana’s senate race, the clear winner from Trump’s accession is Republican Treasurer John Kennedy. Of the candidates who have served in government, despite having been a fixture in Baton Rouge for three decades and more than half of that time as the elected treasurer, he has created the most compelling portrait of somebody from outside of the powers that be, regardless of which party held power (having switched from a liberal Democrat for the 2004 Senate race to a populist conservative Republican by the time he ran again in 2008). Even as populism has started to wane in Louisiana, it still retains potency, and Democrats disgusted with insider Clinton or with the process in general that has allowed liberalism to continue influencing public policy long after its bankruptcy as serious political philosophy that actually describes the way the world works and has any valid understanding of the human condition will find a Republican they can vote for, whether they have voted any time recently.
These people coming out of the woodwork to vote for Trump disproportionately will break for Kennedy. By contrast, the biggest loser from crowning trump will be Republican Rep. John Fleming. Principled conservatives who value candidates that both say the right things and then try to do them – as opposed to another, more populist conservative but more genuine outsider Republican 2014 Senate candidate Rob Maness who talks big but never has proven he can deliver since he has never held any elective office – disproportionately would support Fleming. But if discouraged by having Trump at the top of the ticket, some conservatives will disappear on election day and never count in Fleming’s column.
With three Democrats currently in the contest, given these dynamics the Trump nomination at present helps out Republican Rep. Charles Boustany. Locked in a duel to secure a runoff spot against Kennedy, whatever erodes election day turnout for Fleming favors Boustany whose chances otherwise appear little changed with Trump as the standard-bearer. Maness continues to tread water in this scenario, facing a similar situation of turnout erosion as Fleming but with the potential to grab at least a few votes from those very alienated from elected officials stimulated by Trump’s name on the ballot.
As far as the two House contests made open with the vacation by Boustany and Fleming to run for the open Senate seat, in the Third District it little matters where Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle appears to have opened a big lead courtesy of publicity from his recent gubernatorial run that nearly put him in position to win that. In the Fourth District, Trump’s presence may give a small boost to the two outsider candidates Dr. Trey Baucum and Rick John in that affair but should not hurt the most ideological candidate in it, Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson whose rock-ribbed conservatism particularly rooted in social issues should sufficiently inspire his base to turn out even if some may look askance at Trump’s libertine personal lifestyle choices.
Emanations from the Trump nomination should not buffer other state congressional contests that feature incumbents. Regardless, in Louisiana his presidential nomination may alter the political environment in a way that significantly impacts certain other races.