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Schroder in, might fit anybody-but-Landry bill

Enter, as an imperfect fit for the anybody-but-Landry set of Republicans ensconced in Louisiana, GOP state Treasurer John Schroder for governor.

Within a day of each other, GOP Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser backed away from but Schroder made formal his entrance into the contest against Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry. It was perhaps the only combination of circumstances that gives him any chance to win.

Nungesser, a self-described “moderate” Republican, had hoped to thread a needle between Landry, with staunch conservative credentials, and any state-party-backed Democrat who entered the contest. A Democrat with party mandarins’ blessing must contest the office, and almost certainly a non-white, because Democrats can’t win if they don’t play and desperately need to retain the office to have any governing influence over the next four years, they must have a topline candidate to help carry down ballot candidates, and they best run an establishment racial minority ally to prevent another of the outsider woke kind from capturing the party’s base from them. Given the electorate’s climate of increasingly searching for a candidate to challenge oversized state government too inclined to redistribute to favored clientele and declining citizen fortunes, he didn’t fit the bill.

With his deferral, those Republicans either not solidly on the right – think get-along-go-along politicians who blanch at the ideas of slowing down the growth of government but want it to work better with plenty of largesse thrown the way of business and/or of not surrendering in the culture war foisted by Democrats on society that the left seeks to remake in its own warped image – or for whatever reason don’t like Landry don’t have a champion. Yet despite his conservative credentials on the issues making him much more like Landry than Nungesser, this crowd could tolerate Schroder to take that place.

For Schroder has a history of having it both ways, both well back in his political career and more recently. While Landry maintains close fidelity to conservative issue preferences with variances far and few between, from time to time Schroder shuffles about showing one thing but opting to do another.

A decade ago as a state representative Schroder aligned himself with a group of legislators who styled themselves the “budget hawks,” allegedly pledged to balance the budget by paring the budget of waste and presumed trickery, such as forgoing use of “one-time” money or dollars swept from dozens of state funds that statutorily had much more money dedicated to them than could be spent rationally on their designated causes. That position ignored the reality that the scheme of dedications to avoid taking hard votes perpetuated budgetary problems by cordoning off revenues that properly loosened would dissolve the artificially-induced deficits by redirecting the funds to better uses.

The appropriate response by the hawks, among who Schroder was one of the leaders, should have been fiscal reform jettisoning the funds and their dedications, freeing up money. But it was politically more convenient instead to rail about one-time money and ask for tax increases, a strategy that caused conservatives in increasing numbers to abandon the group until it withered away. So, this allowed Schroder and others to pose as fiscal conservatives, spouting rhetoric about budget honesty and scrubbing while obscuring that they did nothing to try to reduce the size of government, much less cut taxes.

More recently, Schroder found himself inserted, as head of the State Bond Commission by virtue of his office, into controversy about New Orleans’ willingness to enforce adequately and honestly state law regarding abortion. With city officials brazenly saying they wouldn’t give appropriate priority to that task, several SBC members held up, if not wanting to postpone until city officials at least publicly reversed themselves, a bond measure dealing with city water and sewerage. Landry in particular led the charge with the sensible argument that this breaching of the rule of law eroded so dramatically the legitimacy of the American system of government that means such as this were necessary to rectify that.

At first, Schroder joined Landry and the other GOP officials in opposition to letting the measure go through, but even then he kept articulating that he joined them begrudgingly as he felt the venue unsuited for this purpose. However, after a couple of subsequent meetings he caved in along with all the others except for Landry.

Episodes like these suggest Schroder, while not the ideal instrument, could carry at least some water for the good old boys resolutely opposed to Landry. And he also provides a home for conservatives who feel themselves, for whatever reason, on the wrong side with Landry.

The problem is, Schroder doesn’t excite as a candidate for the state’s highest office. Whether independent, polling to this point indicates him drawing miniscule support, almost always behind undeclared candidates or even gadflies. Like it or not, one ironclad rule of politics is you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; donors could throw boatloads of money at a campaign but if the candidate just doesn’t have it, he’s not going to win. That Schroder’s name has been bandied about as a candidate for over a year and he still draws hardly any support – even though he serves in statewide office and is from the most populated part of the state – doesn’t bode well for his chances to eat into Landry’s support among the electorate.

So, the ABL faction might keep shopping around while Landry continues to draw big campaign bucks and endorsement after endorsement (fair enough). Regardless, for Schroder to win ten months from now would constitute a historic surge to the Governor’s Mansion.

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