While he is registered as an Independent, Landrieu is campaigning on a conservative platform of lowering taxes, strict illegal immigration enforcement and growing business in the state, including the gambling industry in New Orleans. Landrieu believes he can attract 250,000 new gambling jobs to Louisiana. Landrieu also pledges to bring tort reform to Louisiana and say, “goodbye to red light traffic cameras.”
This is certainly a much different platform that the ones supported by his cousins, former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, both Democrats.
According to Gary Landrieu his last name is worth “$50 million in name recognition,” a figure that the other candidates will never reach. Of course, he needs to convince conservatives, moderates, and Independents that his message is truly different from the typical liberal agenda espoused by his cousins and most Democrats in Louisiana.
In the election, Landrieu will be trying to topple the incumbent, Governor John Bel Edwards, who is trying to walk a political tight rope. He needs his base of liberal voters to support him, but he is also trying to woo centrist Republicans by showing support for President Trump. He has championed an increase in taxes, criminal justice reform and an expansion of Medicaid to the delight of statewide Democrats, but he is also pro-life and pro-Second Amendment, both positions that are not popular with his party.
The GOP challengers in the race are U.S Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-Alto) and businessman Eddie Rispone of Baton Rouge. By the end of qualifying in August, there will surely be plenty of other gubernatorial candidates, but most will be either perennial or long shot contenders.
The big question is whether another high-profile Republican will enter the race in the last few weeks. According to Axios, on a flight to Louisiana on Air Force One, President Donald Trump used the opportunity to lobby House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Metairie) to enter the Governor’s race. Trump reportedly told Scalise that he could easily win the race and a Republican would be able to retain his first congressional district seat. Trump offered to campaign for Scalise and referred to poll results indicating his strong approval rating in Louisiana. While flattered by the offer, Axios reported that Scalise “politely dismissed the idea.”
Scalise is not the only high-profile Republican who has declined to challenge Edwards in the Governor’s race. At least four popular Republican statewide elected officials, including Attorney General Jeff Landry, State Treasurer John Schroder, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser and U.S. Senator John Kennedy, have decided not to enter the Governor’s race.
The decisions are somewhat curios considering that Edwards is seemingly very vulnerable. Louisiana is a very Republican state that voted 58% for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Edwards is the only statewide elected Democrat in Louisiana, which has only one Democrat congressman.
Obviously, Republicans, from President Trump to Louisiana GOP Chairman Louis Gurvich, are targeting Edwards for defeat. Unfortunately, for Republicans, their two candidates are relatively unknown. Congressman Abraham has name recognition in only one of the six congressional districts, while Eddie Rispone has relatively little name recognition throughout the entire state.
If he can raise enough money for significant statewide advertising, Gary Landrieu could fill the void that exists in the race right now. Clearly, Edwards is beatable, at least according to the latest statewide survey from respected pollster John Couvillon. It shows Edwards leading the race, but not comfortably. According to the poll results, Edwards has “a relatively static base of support,” and the Governor’s race is “likely to go to runoff.” After factoring in African American and Republican undecided vote, Couvillon showed Edwards leading his GOP opponents in a run-off by a close 45-42% margin, not much of an advantage for an incumbent.
This polling result must have been quite disturbing for the Governor. He has enjoyed three years in the most powerful political position in the state, controlling the statewide political agenda. This has given him the platform to push for politically popular issues throughout his term. For example, in this session, the Governor supported popular causes such as an increase in the state minimum wage and teacher pay raises. Despite the advantages, Edwards faces the prospect of a costly and unpredictable runoff.
In the next few months until Election Day, there will be plenty of surprises and new developments impact the race. One of the biggest unknown factors will be whether President Trump decides to get involved. If he enters the race on behalf of the GOP and campaigns for one or more of the Republican candidates, it will help guarantee a runoff. If he ignores the race and the GOP candidates cannot get traction or funding to boost their anemic name recognition, Edwards has a much better chance of avoiding a runoff.
The best way for Governor Edwards to win the race is to avert a general election. If he is forced into a runoff, the chances are strong he will be a one term Governor.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at [email protected]