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Desisting better serves careers of LA GOP stars

One Louisiana politician made the right call. If the other gets a call, he should desist as well.

National politics churned unusually in the last week and a day. Election results prompted an unwise change in U.S. House of Representatives leadership, and Republican Pres. Donald Trump asked for a received a change of leadership in the Department of Justice.

With the GOP losing its House majority, Rep. Steve Scalise will take on a diminished role in the chamber’s governance, with any real influence over its coming business in the next two years a consequence of his relationship with Trump. This downgrading has led to speculation that Scalise might take a stab at Louisiana’s governorship, which wouldn’t require him to leave his congressional post to run.

Enormously popular, Scalise would be the favorite against Democrat incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards. Instead, he has signaled he’ll stay put and serve as second-ranked Republican, a spot he gained earlier today, for the entire two-year term.

That’s wise, as the GOP remains in good shape to retake the House in 2021. Lower chamber elections usually follow presidential results in those election years, and with a putative field of far-left pygmies jockeying to take on Trump and two years for their party’s extremist excesses to become fully viewed by the voting public, more likely than not at this point Scalise will find himself no worse than the second-ranked member of Congress in two years and having a potential speakership in his future. Exiting to become governor erases this possibility.

Meanwhile, with the departure of former Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, one name mentioned at the margins as a potential successor is state Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry. He appears at best a long shot, as other more prominent and experienced people, such as former federal district attorney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, are in the mix.

Yet should he get the nod, such a job would entice Landry. After all, the top law enforcement job in the country has had only 84 occupants, so he would make history and become a national newsmaker with vastly increased influence compared to his current job.

However, such a move might not work out best for him in the long run. Still a reasonably young man (turning 48 around Christmas), the national attorney general position typically ends up as the peak of a politician’s career. And, even if Trump wins a second term, holders of the job typically don’t stay on too long, having an average tenure of around 33 months.

Likely, Landry is far from done in politics when he reaches 50. At this point, he could hold his state office as long as he likes, but probably at some point he could look to advance to the top step. If Edwards wins a second term, Landry could go for it in 2023 after eight years of building a base.

Landry could find himself in position to do it that in 2023 even if Edwards loses. Because if Edwards does, it’s probable that Republican Sen. John Kennedy will be the cause, as polling favors the senator over the governor when matching up the two of them. In 2023, Kennedy will have turned 72 and may wish only to serve one term. Supposing he goes for two and wins reelection, Landry then can still step in in 2027, having a dozen years to build a base and not having reached 60.

Serving as U.S. attorney general for a couple or more years wouldn’t make such a plan impossible, but as soon as Landry leaves the job his career would start to go stale, and the longer he stays out of the political spotlight, the more his electoral capital erodes. With timing somewhat out of his control, if ambitious Landry would do best to preserve his security by staying put rather than by gambling with a higher-profile gig that increases the risk that he ends up high and dry in state electoral politics.

Landry’s announcement today that he will run for reelection, not governor, appears to reflect he thinks along these lines. Any decision made public limits his options, and it certainly would look odd for him to have said this, then abandon his post for the national equivalent.

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