This week, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy announced his entirely expected reelection bid for this fall. So far, he has but one announced opponent, a Democrat with little name recognition and few resources.
Possibly a bigger name among Democrats could enter, but even among the party’s most prominent politicians none likely could come within 10 points of Cassidy in the general election. Simply and especially because national issues come into play in consideration of this seat, no state Democrat is close enough to the median center-right voter in Louisiana on the entire scope of issues to triumph against a solid conservative like Cassidy (American Conservative Union rating voting score: 83).
This lack of two-party competition actually has been the norm in Louisiana for 150 years. Until 1960, Republicans had challenged the several Democrats that had populated the offices since the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment only three times. While the GOP challenged regularly after then, these contests didn’t feature much competition and usually didn’t include leading GOP politicians. Through 1984, no Republican ran a competitive race against a Democrat, defined as one where the winner didn’t achieve at least 55 percent of the primary vote (when the blanket primary became law) or the runoff vote.
However, starting in 1986 with the knock-down, drag-out encounter between Reps. Democrat John Breaux and Republican Henson Moore, competitive elections became the norm through 2008. Only Breaux’s 1992 and 1998 reelections of the six weren’t competitive. In this period, almost every contest occurred with prominent politicians from both major parties.
But since, that hasn’t been the case. GOP former Sen. David Vitter coasted past that margin in his 2010 reelection, and when Cassidy knocked off Democrat former Sen. Mary Landrieu in 2014 he did it with 56 percent of the vote.
This election seems to signal a restoration of the 1960-84 period, with the parties reversed: Republicans defeating Democrats in uncompetitive contests that only occasionally attract a prominent Democrat, most particularly when a seat comes open. That would indicate Republican consolidation as the dominant party in federal elections and a leading indicator that will happen at the state level.
As the past shows, trends have a lot of momentum. It took a quarter-century of competition to flip party preferences among voters after a quarter century of minimal (as opposed to the prior nearly century of no) competition. The longer the GOP can run out this decade-old period of minimal competition, the longer it will take Democrats to work through a competitive period if they ever plan on wresting back the mantle of majority major party in Louisiana.