(Photo: Chris Matthews shakes hands with Mitch Landrieu at Mayoral Debate against C. Ray Nagin, 2006, Adobe Photos)
When Jeff Crouere, radio talk show host for WGSO 990 AM, asked me during one of my Tuesday morning appearances last year during the middle of the Confederate statue debate, whether I thought Mitch Landrieu had a chance to be President, I said, “not a shot, no way!”.
Not that I don’t think Mitch is not a terrific speaker, for he is. Not that I don’t think he has the charisma or the political smarts, for he does. Of course, he does, he’s a Landrieu.
He’s accustomed to winning and he has Landrieu politics in his blood.
The current New Orleans Mayor, Landrieu, has only lost two elections in his political career. The first one was in 1994 at the hands of Marc Morial, for New Orleans Mayor. The second, occurred in 2006. At the time, Chris Matthews moderated the debate between Landrieu and incumbent Ray Nagin. The debate was held at WDSU TV and it garnered significant national attention due to the controversial disaster, we called post-Katrina New Orleans.
Landrieu lost that race for Mayor and continued as Louisiana Lieutenant Governor, a seat he had won handsomely over the decade.
But, last night, I heard it. On the tube, nestled right above the dinner table, I watched MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews pat New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on his back and give the two-term Mayor a big national boost. Matthews said that Landrieu had rare political talent that could make him a formidable candidate.
Here’s the way it was explained today on NOLA.com:
Matthews started his evaluation of Landrieu by making a comparison to the Oscars that aired Sunday night, saying that he was inspired by portrayals of politicians as altruistic, totally bent on doing the work of the people. That's how he framed his description of Landrieu, saying that the New Orleans mayor was somehow able to rise above Gridiron's jovial tone to take on a presidential persona.
Matthews said he was becoming an early supporter of Landrieu based on his talent. The next candidate to challenge Trump needs President Franklin D. Roosevelt's ability to inspire; President Ronald Reagan's ability to "make the nation simply feel good about itself again," and President Barack Obama's "talent for believing in America's exceptionalism," he said.
"I wonder where we will find the person to take on President Trump in 2020," Matthews opined. "Yes, we have many candidates out there said to be attractive. But who has the talent?"
Yes, in somewhat comparing Landrieu to Churchill, Matthews all but endorsed Landrieu for President but keep in mind, we have a long way to go and who knows to whom Matthews might bestow heroic qualities in the near presidential election future? While the Mayor is not a national commodity, has not finished his final term and has not started his book tour, which is about launch. However, that book, will surely get him good exposure since the subject plays very well for the audience he would want to attract. The subject? How he took on the confederate monument issue, which was a controversial move for a term-limited mayor. For almost a year, among many Louisiana whites, his name was less popular than Obama’s, which is saying a lot. It probably still is. .
So, when I fielded Crouere’s question, I felt Landrieu had a number of things going against him. First, he’s from Louisiana and delegates and voters of neither party seem anxious to back a candidate from a small state. Also, since he has not served in Congress or the US Senate, he doesn’t have the national issue creds
However, Mitch Landrieu, like all president candidates it seems, will have at least one book under his name. He’s already receiving significant attention on the talk show circuits and in the news in his capacity of President of the US Conference of Mayors.
Other than the monument controversy, Landrieu also has some dead weight and some heavy water-soaked political baggage. The New Orleans murder rate is a major political albatross, as it would be for any Mayor of a medium to large American city with a large minority population. He is not a national commodity. His reputation has suffered a good bit as a result of a Sewage and Water Board debacle, which got many New Orleans citizens all wet, literally. A monsoon hit, Landrieu was in Aspen Institute, he arrived back over a day later after the streets swelled with water and the city lived through weeks of flooding scares, every time the weather report turned cloudy. Eventually, the pumping system returned to sub-adequate, better than on flood day, but, not ready for prime time metropolitan living.
But, there’s plenty time for him to get wind behind his back and his name into the airwaves. There are few potential Democratic competitors with much name/face exposure but a few of them appear to have a national platform, like Senator Corey Booker.
He has the talent. He’s got the smarts.
And for now, he just might have a vocal backer in Chris Matthews, assuming the MSNBC host was serious.
Ironically, while he would be quite attractive to the national Democratic Party audience, Landrieu could have a difficult time winning in Louisiana if he were to run against a Republican for US Congress or US Senate, should the opportunity arise. Never forget, his sister, three-term US Senator, Mary Landrieu got upended in 2014 as his opponent Bill Cassidy turned President Obama into Senator Landrieu’s running mate.
So, let me recalibrate my answer to Crouere’s question: Mitch Landrieu has as good of a chance as any candidate to win the Democratic nomination.
But, just like the current guy in the White House, don’t expect either to win their respective home states in the general election.
That’s a given.