jbeharvey.082517   095 copy.jpg

Governor John Bel Edwards speaks about Hurricane Harvey and the State's plans to deal with expected and unexpected consequences of that projected Category 1 hurricane.

Unlike his predecessor, Gov. John Bel Edwards studiously avoids any hint that he might have ambitions beyond Louisiana's borders.

It's one way Edwards differentiates himself from predecessor Bobby Jindal, whose entire eight-year tenure often felt like a prep session for his bust of a presidential campaign. It's also one way he sets himself apart from the national party, which is a tried and true tradition among Democrats hoping to compete in conservative Louisiana.

Lately, though, Edwards has been dipping his toe into the national waters a bit — not necessarily to promote himself, but to try to pull his party toward the center.

One place we're seeing this is in the debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act. Edwards is a true believer in the Medicaid expansion he instituted when he took over from Jindal last year, but he's also been in regular, apparently friendly touch with Baton Rouge physician and Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy on the subject. And he's joined a bipartisan coalition of governors, led by Ohio Republican John Kasich and Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper, that's pushing a combination of Democratic, Republican and flat-out pragmatic principles.

Another is in the party's never-ending discussion over whether it should stick to liberal principles or be open to candidates with a range of views. Edwards, progressive in many ways but socially conservative on guns and abortion, told a recent party gathering of Democratic leaders in Aspen that if they impose a purity test, they’ll never see Democrats elected in states like Louisiana.

Edwards' stances are at least partly a matter of self-preservation, of course. While his poll numbers remain pretty strong, Republican partisans see his 2015 election as a fluke and are gearing up for a big challenge in 2019, although it's not yet clear who their standard-bearer will be.

And some of the attention he's getting is surely the result of his sure-handed leadership during a series of well-publicized disasters and episodes of violence.

Whatever the reason, he's generating enough interest to justify national stories like a recent long Politico Magazine article by Advocate journalist Tyler Bridges asking "Can this governor teach Democrats how to win in the South?"

Clearly there are people who think he can. And just as clearly, he's one of them. 

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.