The pundits are pretty well unanimous in predicting that former Gov. Edwin Edwards will not be elected to Congress, and perhaps it is perverse to hope they are wrong.
But many in the Fourth Estate secretly will be rooting for an upset. We have enough drab worthies on Capitol Hill. If Edwards were to win, he’d be in hot demand for quotes. Think of those old movies where mobs of noisy hacks rush the hero and bombard him with questions. Perhaps it won’t be quite like that — we don’t sport press badges in hat bands anymore — but you get the picture.
The pundits themselves may not all be crushed to see Edwards back in public office, and a few of them are hedging their bets. They point out that it is always dangerous to count Edwards out, and he certainly has an experience edge in political campaigning; he has been winning elections in Louisiana since just after Dwight Eisenhower became president.
His political obituaries were written as long ago as 1987, when he withdrew from the gubernatorial election against Buddy Roemer. Four years later, he won his fourth term when he found himself in the runoff against David Duke, whose Klan background and Nazi sympathies persuaded a majority of voters, as Edwards put it, to “hold their nose” and put Edwards back in the mansion.
If he is to have a chance of prevailing this time, he will need Louisiana’s open primary system to put him once again in a runoff with the Republican most likely to strike voters as extremist and somewhat unhinged. That honor surely belongs to state Rep. Lenar Whitney, of Houma, who, according to David Wasserman of the authoritative Cook Report in Washington is “the most frightening candidate I’ve met in seven years of interviewing congressional hopefuls.”
Edwards’ dream runoff could happen. He, as the only Democrat of any account, is a cert to make it, while a poll conducted by the Tea Party of Louisiana, which has endorsed Whitney, ranks her the leading Republican, with 15.7 percent, 19 points behind Edwards.
She is only a couple of points ahead of the large GOP field, but Whitney is clearly a force on the right wing of the party, having won the “Outstanding Family Advocate” award from the Louisiana Family Forum, which takes much of the credit for foisting creationism on our public schools.
Science is evidently not Whitney’s forte. One of the reasons she scared Wasserman was her inability to name a single source for her contention that the earth is getting colder. So she says in a video denouncing global warming as a hoax. All it takes to prove the climate scientists wrong, according to Whitney, is a 10-year-old with a thermometer.
Asked whether she believed President Barack Obama was born in America, Wasserman said she replied that was a controversial question before aides bundled her out of the room. There is no controversy, on the other hand, about Whitney’s domicile. It is outside the district she hopes to represent.
So whatever hopes Edwards entertains might require Whitney to make the runoff and then prove too ditzy for the voters of the Baton Rouge area. Right, you have put your finger on a major flaw in this theory. The Family Forum is pretty popular in these parts, and Whitney is hardly alone in regarding global warming as a fiction dreamed up by climatologists bent on world domination.
Her video has attracted close to 100,000 hits, and, of course, the Obama fan club in the district is not a large one.
Still, if Edwards needs to face a rival he can depict as a whack job in the runoff, he will be pulling for Whitney on Tuesday.
“Vote for the crook” was a prescient slogan in 1991 campaign, for Edwards had then never been convicted of a crime. Now that he has done time for racketeering, the need for voters to hold their noses might be even more pressing.
Back then, too, he could draw on support from his Acadian and Democratic bases, whereas now he is running far from his ancestral roots in what may be the state’s most conservative district.
So Edwards needs a miracle, which is unfortunate, with the Family Forum on the other side.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.