Tag Archives: Louisiana Politics

Poll Worship & The Louisiana Silly Season

I hate articles about polls. There’s way too much poll worship in the world and when the polls are wrong, as they were in the U.K. general election, people freak out. It’s part and parcel of worshiping a false deity.

Poll worship is wreaking havoc on national politics right now with the candidate trying to be the first insult comedian elected President leading the GOP field. The polls also show a backbench Independent Senator from Vermont doing surprisingly well in the politically quirky Granite State. All you need to know about that is that New Englanders often win that primary *and* that they love insurgents: Pat Buchanan stunned Poppy Bush by getting 37% of the vote in 1992. I guess Bush should have been more honest about being a bona fide Yankee and invited everyone in New Hampshire up to Kennebunkport for a ride in his power boat. They love retail politics in that state, which is one reason the insult comedian will fade there unless he meets every single Republican voter. It’s what they expect.

The point of the previous paragraph is that we’re in the political silly season and it’s too early to put much stock in polling data from any organization or in any state. New Hampshire doesn’t vote until 2/9/16 and anything could happen including the alien invasion that occured in the fine SyFy teevee show, Defiance. That could, in turn, lead to gruff, crooked outsider Datak Tarr winning New Hampshire. I told you it was the silly season…

Meanwhile in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, we’re having an uncharacteristically boring Gubernatorial (hereinafter Goober) campaign. One of Jindal’s many unfortunate legacies is the dulling down of Louisiana politics. It’s not as bad as what he did to health care or education but his two terms have, at least temporarily, drained the life out of our politics. The current race for Governor is thus far lacking in drama, intrigue, and seasoning, to use a food metaphor.

That brings me back full circle to the post title. It shouldn’t be our silly season since election day is Saturday 10/24, but we’re busy debating a recent poll showing the lone Democrat in the race, John Bel Edwards, in first place with 30% of the vote followed by Gopers Bitter Vitter and Public Service Commissioner/former PBJ aide Scott Angelle at tied 21%. That’s right, we’re talking about a fucking poll. Sigh.

It’s a banal and sterile argument because 30-35% is more likely than not the dull Blue Dog State Rep’s ceiling. Additionally, Vitter hasn’t spent much money on the race as of yet and has nearly $10 million in his coffers. That hasn’t stopped Team Vitter from trying to discredit pollster Verne Kennedy. It’s what they do:

… the Kennedy poll showed Vitter losing support among several of his core constituencies since May. (Kennedy polled the Louisiana electorate in May, June and July.) The senator wasted no time trying to shoot the messenger.

Kyle Ruckert, campaign manager for Vitter, sent an email blast accusing Kennedy of “fantasy-land polling.” He cited several alleged instances of Kennedy’s polls being widely off the mark, including Vitter’s 2010 Senate primary against former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor. Vitter won that primary with 88 percent of the GOP vote.

Ruckert’s email claims that Kennedy’s poll in that race had the two men “almost even” with Vitter leading 46-34 percent. (That’s not “almost even” — not even with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent — but politics is the mother of hyperbole.) “Kennedy’s poll was wrong by more than 40 points,” Ruckert wrote. At the end of his email, he concluded, “it’s silly season, and desperate candidates try desperate things.”

Kennedy, who is not polling for any gubernatorial candidate, says his two polls in Vitter’s 2010 primary election did not come close to the results cited by Ruckert’s email. Kennedy sent me a copy of an email he sent to Ruckert citing the actual results of his surveys. Far from showing Vitter’s primary contest close, Kennedy’s polls showed Vitter ahead by huge margins. In June 2009 (a year before the primary), Kennedy’s poll had Vitter leading Traylor 54-15 percent. In August 2010, Kennedy’s poll showed Vitter with an even bigger lead of 66-14 percent.

Kennedy called the Vitter camp’s response to his latest survey in the governor’s race “foolishness.”

“I asked Kyle Ruckert to share his sources, because I can’t find anything even close to what they’re saying,” Kennedy said. “I don’t expect them to send it to me.”

One would have thought that the Vitterites would blame Obama for their loss in support. It’s what Diaper Dave usually does and the blame Obama approach helped elect his lackey Double Bill Cassidy to the Senate last year. Instead, he’s blaming a respected pollster who often works for business groups. In short, it ain’t no librul conspiracy.

This whole mishigas is *another* reason I hate stories about polls. The only reason the lackluster Edwards is in the lead in Kennedy’s poll is the pollster’s custom of automatically giving any Democrat 90% of the African-American vote. He may be the leader on paper but he’s not the frontrunner: the odds are long against his prevailing in a run-off against ANY Republican.

In case you were wondering, John Bel Edwards is NOT related to former Governor Edwin and has none of Le Guv’s panache and style. He’s also more conservative than the last 2 Democrats to win major statewide office, which is conservative indeed. He’s very much a part of the Gret Stet good ole boys club, his brother is the current Sheriff of Tangiapahoa Parish as was his father before him. The father was, however, a staunch EWE ally. None of the EWE charisma rubbed off on JBE: his nickname among internet smart asses is Gomer. That’s right, Gomer for Goober. I feel another sigh coming on, y’all.

I considered apologizing for discussing polls in a post expressing dislike for articles about polls but decided not to. It would be akin to not discussing Bobby Jindal in an article about Louisiana politics. I might rather not think about how he fucked the Gret Stet over but his shadow looms heavily over the Goober race. In fact, the one good thing I can say about Gomer is that he has been very critical of the PBJ record throughout the latter’s second term. It’s not his fault that fear and loathing of a black President turned a purple state deep red. I seem to have crossed over the Bridge Of Sighs

I’m reluctant to predict the outcome of the not so great Gret Stet goober race. I’m not sure who the GOPer will be right now but I still think Vitter will rally his base of bigots, bible bangers, and assholes and make the run-off against the hapless Gomer. Whatever happens, the Blue Dog is gonna be left for roadkill in the run-off.

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The GOP’s Alternate Reality: Jindal Campaign Edition

I’m feeling unoriginal today. I’m not exactly sure why but it *is* Monday so perhaps that’s it. The evidence is overwhelming that the Republican base doesn’t view the world in the same way that rational people do. Their reluctance to admit that Dylann Roof was racially motivated and not an “anti-Christian lunatic” is merely the latest example of this. Jeb Bush claims to be a centrist who will speak the truth to the base when it’s wrong. It took him almost 16 hours to admit that Roof was a racist who thought the massacre would cause a race war. Mustn’t offend the people who think Cliven Bundy is John Wayne instead of a fathead in a cowboy hat or that the Duggars are moral exemplars instead of members of a cult. When the Bushes pander, they pander big.

Another example of Republican magical thinking comes from an article about Bobby Jindal’s campaign plans in the Sunday Advocate. In a rare bow to reality, they concede that PBJ is a long shot but claim he’s used to being an underdog:

But neither Jindal, who says he doesn’t worry about polls, nor his longtime campaign consultant, Timmy Teepell, seems terribly concerned about the odds.

Both point to Jindal’s performance in his first try for office, when he led the open-primary field for governor in 2003. (He lost the runoff, but his strong showing propelled his later career.)

“Gov. Jindal went from an asterisk to 33 percent to win his first primary,” Teepell said in an email. “He is unafraid of a race where he only has to go 11 points to get ahead,” he said, referring to the frequent inability of even the leading Republican contenders to register more than that.

Timmy gives good spin. He neglects to mention that popular sitting Governor Mike Foster was a full-throated Jindalista at that point. Big Daddy Mike’s  support was the main reason that no-neck brat PBJ did so well in that primary. As I’ve said before, 2003 was the only closely contested election PBJ has ever been involved in and he lost the run-off. He faced only token and comically inept opposition in the 2007 and 2011 Goober races. Additionally, in his 2004 Congressional race, the GOP establishment cleared the field for the then whiz kid to win against token opposition. Current House whip Steve Scalise was told to wait his turn even though he had been around longer. Remember that the next time the Jindalites claim he’s an insurgent candidate. Insipid is more like it…

Back to the Advocate’s piece wherein DC bureau chief, Gregory Roberts, compares PBJ’s candidacy to that of Jimmy Carter in 1976:

Jindal’s rise to the top from near nullity in 2003 is hardly the only time a politician has pulled that off, even on the vastly bigger scale of a presidential race. In 1976, a Georgia peanut farmer who had served a single term as governor, Jimmy Carter, emerged from near-obscurity to capture the Democratic nomination and ultimately the White House.

Like Carter, Jindal comes from a Southern state without a large population or contributor base. And like Carter, Jindal is a born-again Christian whose religious convictions form a significant part of his political profile.

In a speech Friday to the Faith & Freedom conference of religious-right activists in Washington, Jindal, 44,recounted his journey from the Hinduism of his childhood — his parents emigrated from India to Baton Rouge shortly before he was born — to his embrace of Christianity as a teenager; the story is a standard element of his public appearances. He identifies now as an evangelical Catholic.

In 1976, Carter made his first big splash in Iowa, home to the caucuses that kick off the nomination process. He shrewdly exploited the Democratic Party’s revised rules giving more power to grass-roots state nomination contests instead of party bosses.

This is a genuinely bizarre and laughably ahistorical analogy. The only thing I like about it is the comparison to someone who is loathed by the GOP base and still subjected to ridicule by them even though the big blow out was 35 years ago. The GOP spent many years casting Carter as Herbert Hoover to Reagan’s FDR and they can’t let go. End of oddly relevant digression.

The political circumstances are radically different in 2016 than 1976, let me count the ways. First, George McGovern was blown out by Tricky Dick in 1972. Democrats were desperate for a winning candidate and Carter was able to capitalize on that. He also wooed Wallace voters by positioning himself as a white collar, respectable version of their hero. That’s something forgotten about Carter: his victorious Florida primary campaign that year was a masterpiece of  proto-triangulation. Carter picked up Wallace votes and earned some gratitude from party liberals for slaying the populist peckerwood dragon. I’m uncertain if the Jindalistas are capable of such cunning. Back to modern times: Willard Mittbot Romney got 48% of the vote and 206 electoral votes. Carter had a much, much easier act to follow.

Second, 1976 was the post-Watergate election and Carter positioned himself as an outsider in contrast to *most* of his primary opponents. The Carter campaign set the template for all the Washington outsider candidacies to follow, including the one that ousted him. In short, it was a very unique year, and the two most popular national Democrats at the time, Ted Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, did not run. In contrast, the 2016 GOP field is a large and deep one. It is the why not me campaign, after all.

I suspect many Republicans will employ magical thinking and claim that, by merely existing, the Obama administration has been worse than Nixon’s, and that Beghazi, Benghazi is worse than Watergate. Whatever. Nixon resigned with 2 years and 4 months left in his second term and President Obama will finish out his; all the magical thinking in the world cannot eradicate that.

Another major difference between Carter and Jindal is that the former left office with high poll ratings whereas PBJ is the most unpopular Gret Stet Governor of the polling era. That’s right, less popular than Edwin Edwards during his *first* corruption trial. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Bobby-n-Timmy. The unreality based GOP answer to that would be something like this: the poll ratings show that he took tough decisions and was a manly, man worthy of the support of Phil Robertson and his family band of bearded phonies.

Finally, Jimmy Carter was a better campaign product than PBJ. He was a fresh faced, squeaky clean alternative to a field of veteran pols to his left and George Wallace to his right. Carter positioned himself in the centrist sweet spot and rode that to the nomination. In contrast, PBJ is appealing to the hard right evangelical wing of his party. It’s a crowded space that includes past Iowa caucus winners Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum as well as fiery, charismatic Texas Senator Ted Cruz. It’s hard to see PBJ finishing ahead of any of those guys. Nobody’s ever called Bobby Jindal fiery or charismatic. He may serve up raw meat to the base but in an unseasoned and bland fashion.

Bobby Jindal will be announcing his candidacy on Wednesday in Kenner, brah. Remember the whole Facebook flash mob protest thing? The Facebook page has 3,500 likes but limited activity, which once again shows the limits off online/hashtag activism. It’s easy to retweet something, sign an online petition or like a Facebook page, but much harder to schlep out to suburban Kenner and protest in the 90+ degree heat. There do not appear to be any concrete plans for the protest. No surprise there.

I’m going to close on an unoriginal note and predict the following: PBJ will not get a bump in the polls from his announcement, will not make the cut for the Fox debates unless the criteria change, and will end up with the “job he wants” as a fat cat lobbyist or head of some wingnut pressure group.

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