Lots of Louisianans are keeping an eye on how House Majority Whip Steve Scalise fares in Washington now that House Speaker Paul Ryan has announced his departure from Congress. One local who has more than a passing interest is surely Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The Democratic governor is gearing up to run for reelection next year, and the Republican field is unformed. Although he hasn’t done much to publicly encourage the rumors, there’s a theory among some political insiders that, if the Republicans lose their congressional majority, Scalise might shift his ambitions from Washington back to Baton Rouge.
Steve Scalise is a survivor.
It took House Majority Whip Steve Scalise just six years to rise from the lowliest position in Congress to the U.S. House of Representatives' …
Not that Scalise has been a particularly vocal critic of Edwards.
Despite their partisan and ideological differences, the two appear to have a warm relationship. Unlike other potential opponents, chiefly U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and Attorney General Jeff Landry, Scalise doesn’t go around picking attention-getting fights with the governor. He lets Edwards hold meetings in his office suite when he’s in Washington. Scalise still uses crutches after having been shot last summer, and when he needed a hand to climb the podium stairs at the recent Louisiana Political Museum Hall of Fame dinner, it was Edwards who jumped from his seat to help.
Yet if he were to decide to come home, many insiders peg Scalise as the most formidable challenger Edwards could face. He’s one of the more well-liked figures in Louisiana politics, and the shooting raised his profile and made him a sympathetic figure who’d be hard to attack.
There’s still much to be sorted out before anything like that could happen. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants the party’s top job and is Ryan’s official pick, even though he’s got weaknesses as a candidate. We won’t know until November whether the open position is House Speaker or Minority Leader, and it’s also not clear whether Republicans will wait until then to pick a new chief. Also to be determined is how Scalise would feel about serving in the minority party’s leadership after having helped lead the majority.
So for now, there’s not much to do but wait and watch. That goes for everyone who follows Louisiana politics, but maybe just a little more for current occupant of the Governor’s Mansion.