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Floundering Jones CD 4 candidacy helps Guillory

For now, a popular game among those interested in politics around northwest Louisiana is “Where’s Marshall?” – but an amusement that looks unlikely to last much longer.

Drive around the Shreveport area or watch television emanating from it and you’ll occasionally see the visage of Democrat candidate for the Fourth Congressional District lawyer Marshall Jones touting “experience” (even though he’s never held elective office as opposed to three of his Republican opponents) and that he believes in God and guns. But unless you congregate among those he thinks likely to vote for him, you can be forgiven for thinking he exists only as a media creation.

So while he may show up at the Martin Luther King forum or at a brewery with other candidates, you’ll never see him at candidate gatherings where he can get asked tough questions such as at forums at Bossier Parish Community College or for the South Bossier Citizens Assembly. Questions like whether he will vote for Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, or her proposals to scrap the Keystone XL pipeline and increase gun control, whether he supports the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, whether he will raise taxes to fulfill his desire to balance the budget, etc.

Seems donors have a hard time finding Jones as well. Through Oct. 19 he had raised less than $300,000 for his campaign – with over two-thirds of that coming through a loan to himself. And unless he lends himself some more, he’s out of gas for the home stretch – with $582 in the campaign account. Four of his GOP opponents have raised at least twice as much, and another has raised twice as much as he in individual contributions.

This is a far cry from the campaign Jones has wanted to emulate, that of Paul Carmouche in 2008 when the Democrat narrowly lost. Carmouche, also well-connected in the legal community, raised over $1.8 million and didn’t lend himself a dime.

Jones also hoped to follow the script of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, who surprisingly won last year by standing aside while his Republican opponents tore into each other, concentrating on creating an image built heavily on the minority of issues on which a majority of Louisianans agree with him and avoiding the remainder. Jones has held up his end of the bargain, but not the Republicans in the district, who insist on running campaigns filled with comity.

In part this comes from their building different bases – Dr. Trey Baucum on his outsider status, Shreveport City Councilman Oliver Jenkins on business and “Main Street” interests, state Rep. Mike Johnson on social conservatism and limited government, and former state Sen. Elbert Guillory on Tea Party/maverick credentials. Any of these strategies reasonably could yield more votes than any other, so they don’t concern themselves much with trying to swipe voters from each other through negative advertising, with the exception of Baucum making attacks on Johnson.

Part also could come from wishing to avoid the mistake the Republicans made last year in throwing away close to a sure victory for their party. But perhaps influencing them the most is that Jones has turned out to be close to an unserious candidate. Unlike Edwards, who took advantage of the GOP infighting to mold an insurmountable image when he made the gubernatorial runoff, Jones has found himself unable to use the opportunity of facing no attacks to accumulate the same kind of capital.

Only because he runs as a Democrat, and the only one, will Jones likely ride into a runoff on fumes. But unlike last year with Edwards, he will not face a Republican too savaged to win, and will become a sacrificial lamb.

If he even makes it. Guillory has seen a surge in fundraising and, being black, has started to snipe at Jones’ black Democrat base, running advertisements that proclaim him as the only candidate who understands the black community. If Guillory can play up his long-standing ties to black voters in Acadiana and his status as the only candidate not from the very northern part of the district, regardless of whether he makes the runoff he can deny Jones.

Assuming Jones does attain the runoff, he won’t be able to hide any more as his Republican opponent will pester him constantly to answer the inconvenient questions that will send him to a big defeat. He has the look of a candidate who can do no worse than 35 percent of the vote – but also one who can do no better than 40 percent. That’s not what Democrats hoped for this election cycle.

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