New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has spent the past couple of weeks trying to turn out sympathetic votes for his sister Mary’s U.S. Senate re-election bid. Nothing head-turning about that.
What’s interesting is where the mayor’s been doing it. As vital as New Orleans is to Mary Landrieu’s survival, Mitch Landrieu hasn’t just been targeting his own constituents. He’s been traveling the state, speaking to voters in places as close as St. Tammany Parish and as far afield as Acadiana. His itinerary has included stops in Covington, Slidell, Hammond, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Lafayette and Ville Platte.
You could argue that it makes perfect sense to send him out on the road. Landrieu’s an energetic surrogate, and he was easily elected lieutenant governor twice, so voters in the rest of the state know his name. Nobody understands that better than Mary Landrieu’s new campaign manager Ryan Berni, who just happens to be Mitch Landrieu’s top political adviser.
But you’ve got to wonder if this is also an opportunity for the mayor himself. As tired as most everyone must be of politics by now, next year is an open governor’s race, and the campaigning is already well underway. While Mitch Landrieu has not said he’ll be a candidate — and indeed, when asked during his own re-election earlier this year, he said he’d finish out his four-year term — many Democrats see him as the party’s last best hope to reclaim power in Baton Rouge. If he’s weighing his options, as many politicos believe, what better way to test the waters than to get out there and start meeting voters?
Of course, Landrieu’s not the only potential governor with a big stake in the state’s U.S. Senate contest. Louisiana’s other senator, David Vitter, has his fingerprints all over the campaign of Mary Landrieu’s lead opponent, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy. Vitter worked hard to clear the field of other big-name Republicans (although tea party candidate Rob Maness ran anyway, and may well force the election into a runoff). He provided a longtime top aide to run Cassidy’s campaign. He appeared at events with the congressman.
And he supplied the strategic blueprint for Cassidy’s effort: Turn the election into a referendum on President Barack Obama. The approach worked like a charm for Vitter four years ago, in his first election after his prostitution scandal. And if it works against Landrieu, who’s touting her independence from the national party even as Cassidy relentlessly links her to its leader, Vitter will emerge with more than just a grateful junior partner. He’ll also get a big boost in Republican circles as he heads into next year, when he’ll face Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and perhaps more GOP bigwigs for the state’s top job.
Also making themselves heard are the candidates to fill Dardenne’s shoes. State Sen. Elbert Guillory, an African-American Republican, has made a splash in conservative media with his brutal video attacking Mary Landrieu for allegedly “not helping blacks.” If you want to see it, go to his campaign website. Meanwhile, some of the other candidates in the race have been making the rounds of political events as if they were already on the ballot. Same goes for the only Democrat who’s announced for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards.
Then there’s Gov. Bobby Jindal, who’s also looking to the future — just not any future here. While just about every other Louisiana politician has been out and about throughout the state, Jindal’s been crisscrossing the country. Rather than stump for Cassidy, he spent election eve in vote-rich Florida, at the side of a fellow governor locked in a tight race, Rick Scott.
The takeaway? Even though this year’s votes have yet to be counted, Louisiana’s 2015 election season is already well underway, and so is the 2016 presidential contest.
So if you’re sick of politics by now — and really, who wouldn’t be? — I’m afraid you’re out of luck. There’ll be no rest for the weary, not even after the Dec. 6 runoffs.