Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday Night Debateball

(Some of) Your 2016 Louisiana U.S. Senate Candidates take the field tonight in Ruston. The debate is carried by LPB and you can (probably) stream it here. I suppose this means we should note a few recent developments in the race this week to get ourselves hyped up.

First of all, there is this JMC poll out. More than anything else, it appears to show a little Campbellmentum.


There are people (real people... seriously reputable people.. not just me) out there who have been speculating for months about the possibility of sneaking two Democrats into the runoff somehow. Theoretically, this still might might be ever so slightly mathematically possible if we assume enough of that 16% undecided vote are Democrats.  It's hard to know just what the electorate will look like in this crazy year. But we do have this tantalizing take on the scenario via this week's Gambit cover story.
That outcome would be a nightmare for the GOP, and the chances of that nightmare becoming a reality increase as front-running Republicans play it safe on the issues in order to protect their respective bases around the state. For example, all are pro-life, pro-gun, pro-oil, anti-Obama, anti-Hillary Clinton, anti-union and, of course, pro-Trump — though some may be less enthusiastic in their support of the GOP presidential nominee after his latest pronouncements.

  The same could be said of the leading Democrats, except there are only two of them to divide the 40-42 percent of the electorate that reliably votes "D" in national elections. On the Republican side, at least four major candidates — plus at least two more with 5-8 percent of the vote on average — will be competing for the other 58-60 percent of the vote. Add to that another 5 to 8 percent gobbled up by the 15 or more also-rans and it's easy to see how "jungle" is an apt political metaphor in Louisiana this year.
One thing else to consider here is this particular national election could skew the electorate slightly more Dem than usual given waning enthusiasm for Trump among "moderate" (I know, I know, just go with it) Republicans combined with the much stronger and more professional "ground game" operation on behalf of Hillary and the general understanding... even among Trumpistas... that the election is pretty much over at this point.   Given all of that, it is conceivable that the Democrats get a significant edge in turnout. Consider also that the Republicans who do turn out are likely to be  Trump true believers who split more of their vote somewhere along the Duke-Flemming-Maness end of the field and you can still sort of see that Double D runoff happening.

Of course it's a long shot.  For what it's worth, JMC's own analysts  don't think it's worth mentioning in their narrative.  According to them, the demographic trends don't look favorable for Fayard.
Four candidates now have a viable path to the December runoff. Democrat Foster Campbell essentially has clinched one of the runoff spots, while Republicans John Fleming, John Kennedy, and Charles Boustany are competing for the second runoff spot.

Foster Campbell is essentially a lock for the runoff because his lead among black voters has expanded from 33-24% to 48-18% over Fayard; if undecided “leaners” are included, his lead among this demographic expands to 52-18%
Meanwhile, as for the Republican front-runners, there's a bit of news about them this week as well.  Hillariously, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune endorsed Boustany. Their editorial board writes that Boustany  is "poised to play a significant role in reforming the Affordable Care Act."  Actually he wants to repeal it and has boasted of the 60 times he voted to do just that. They also praise his work to "stop China from unfairly subsidizing shrimp to undercut U.S. producers."  But they don't mention his work to help his friends in the Louisiana seafood processing industry to "compete" with imports via the use of virtual slave labor.  But oh well.  Of course, we all remember last year when the T-P endorsed David Vitter for Governor. Maybe they just like candidates who prefer a certain kind of lifestyle.

Speaking of David Vitter, today's Stephanie Grace column is about the similarities in style and strategy between last year's failed Vitter campaign and this year's John Kennedy operation. 
But with Kennedy facing tough competition from fellow Republicans Charles Boustany and John Fleming for a spot in the December runoff, he's clearly hoping the plan that helped Vitter ward off GOP rivals Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle will work for him as well.

The strategy that Vitter's affiliated Super PAC used, its executive director Joel DiGrado explained at a post-gubernatorial election discussion at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, was to make sure that neither of the other Republicans emerged as the single alternative in voters' minds. So when one seemed to be rising in the polls, the group would target that person for attack.

“Every week, we had to reassess who we’re beating up,” said DiGrado, who likened the exercise to playing “whack-a-mole on a balance beam.”

Kennedy also has an affiliated Super PAC, called ESAFund, It's ostensibly independent even though most of its money came from Kennedy's state campaign fund, and it just so happens to be run by Vitter's former campaign manager, Kyle Ruckert. And it too is running harsh attacks against fellow Republicans, with an obvious eye toward keeping either of Kennedy's main GOP rivals from edging him out or joining him in an all-GOP runoff, when he'd clearly prefer to face a Democrat.

This, of course, is the part of the plan that worked for Vitter. His Super PAC's brutal attacks against Dardenne and Angelle may have kept either from catching up to him at the polls.
But being a big aggressive asshole to Dardenne and Angelle came back to haunt Vitter in the runoff when both of those guys were all too eager to hit back at him. Even at the height of his power, it was pretty much a given that Everybody Hated David Vitter. But they were also afraid of him. That worked for a long time. Until it didn't.  Everybody may hate John Kennedy too before this is over but I don't think anybody is all that scared of him.

Anyway, happy debating, kids.

Update: Sorry. I missed this little intrigue today between fringe Trumpista Rob Maness and The Man Who Would Be King Of All Fringe Trumpistas John Flemming. 
Louisiana Senate candidate Rob Maness said Tuesday he was asked to drop out of the race and throw his support to GOP opponent John Fleming in return for significant funding in a future race.

Maness told The Advocate that he met Paul Dickson over coffee at Abita Roasting Company in Madisonville on Monday afternoon. There, Dickson, who identified himself as the person “running the John Fleming PAC” and a decision maker with the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority, offered support to Maness’ future political endeavors, he said.

“He told me that he would provide opportunities for my future, if I left the race for Senate and endorsed John Fleming. But, if I didn't do it before (Tuesday night’s statewide televised) debate, I'd be finished as a politician,” Maness said. “Although I'm not naive, the unethical threats and power play by the thugs behind the John Fleming campaign against me was shocking even by Louisiana standards.”
It's certainly a believable story. But then again, Maness is kind of a nut so who knows? Also, isn't there usually a private investigator filming surreptitiously whenever these little coffee shop meetings happen?  Maybe a tape will turn up.

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