The “Edwards Effect” on Senator Landrieu’s Re-Election Chances


by Elliott Stonecipher

Baton Rouge Press Club LogoAs I waited in Shreveport yesterday to hear what Edwin Edwards told the Baton Rouge Press Club about his political plans, I was certainly expecting to be sickened and saddened for us … for Louisiana … again.  I had, though, managed to preserve a bit of hope that I would be surprised and relieved and more than slightly pleased.

Edwards at Baton Rouge Press ClubAlas, as with almost all things in the past few decades from Edwin Edwards, the reports confirmed that he had dealt us yet another losing hand.  As I put it in a piece on the subject I wrote last month, Edwin Edwards just isn’t through hurting us.

Official qualifying for the subject 6th Congressional District election is not until August 20th, 21st and 22nd.  Fate and human effort have until then to disabuse Edwards of the notion that his campaign is anything other than vanity.  Along the way, however, there is the matter of how Edwards’ campaign can be expected to effect other candidates on the same election ballot.  The candidate drawing the most attention, of course, is U. S. Senator Mary Landrieu.

As if to underscore the validity of the subject, note this paragraph from the reporting of Campbell Robertson of the New York Times, posted online shortly after Edwards’ announcement:

Edwards at Baton Rouge Press Club-insetsAmong the most discussed political questions is what Mr. Edwards’s campaign might mean for Ms. Landrieu, who needs every Democratic vote she can get. Mr. Edwards said he had not discussed the race with her. (“Frankly,” he said, “I thought a long time about running for her seat.”) But in a brief interview after his announcement, Mr. Edwards took credit for her initial election to the Senate in 1996, saying his efforts to turn out the black vote on her behalf put her over the top. (Emphasis mine.)

Given that most observers around the country expect the Senator’s campaign to come down to the wire – perhaps “wire” as in her less-than-6,000 vote margin when first elected in 1996 – it is no stretch to see the benefit to her in having Edwards in his own run-off one place down on that same ballot.

Those of us who worked in Louisiana campaigns during Edwards’ years atop the state’s political pile always knew he would do all things then required and necessary to maximize African-American turnout and votes for himself.  It was analytically expected in such races that some precincts might vote 100% for Edwards, and precincts ending up with more votes cast than voters registered attracted little attention.  Edwards’ campaigns, though, proved no more accomplished in such matters than have those of Senator Landrieu.

Edwin Edwards Announces Run For U.S. CongressThe political rumor-mill in North Louisiana has for months buzzed with the possibility that two top African-American political operatives of Landrieu, Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, may enter other races on the November 4th ballot to help the Senator.  Neither is expected to win the race he is in – rumors most often identify the 4th Congressional District race for Glover and the 5th District Public Service Commission race for Mayo – but such is not the point.  The point is purely to maximize black voter turnout for their political sponsor.  It is within this thinking that the Edwards campaign in the 6th Congressional District makes more sense.  Though history is clear that Edwards and Landrieu do not like each other, when the issue is Landrieu’s re-election, not to mention the Democrats’ control of the U. S. Senate, who likes who has nothing to do with anything.

Straight-up, here’s the deal:  either Landrieu will win in the primary – not likely, but possible – or she will be in a run-off with, most likely, Congressman Bill Cassidy.  Such a Democrat incumbent vs. Republican challenger showdown is Louisiana’s destiny at this notable point in our political history.  With Landrieu the last Democrat standing among statewide elected officials, the state’s trend toward being the reddest of political red may peak.  Or not.

Given that Edwards will likely be “the” Democrat in his Congressional race when qualifying ends, and given that he will likely gather-in almost all the African-American votes cast on that November Tuesday, it likely will not take many votes from others for him to join one of the many Republicans in the race in a run-off a month later.  To go with most of the black votes – 22% of the total in terms of voter registration – it is easy, even in a district made more “Republican” by recent reapportionment, to guesstimate 10% of non-African-American votes for Edwards, an additional net for him of about 8%.  With a long list of primary candidates, it is unlikely that 30% or thereabouts would not be enough to get Edwards on the December 6th run-off ballot.

Landrieu All or None LotteryUnless she wins outright in November, Landrieu’s December 6th run-off with, probably, Cassidy, may be held with the nation wholly focused on it and us.  Untold millions will have been spent in the few weeks of that run-off campaign, and Landrieu could easily roll into it after having missed an outright win by not too many votes.

As he bragged to Campbell Robertson yesterday, Edwards’ saving Landrieu’s electoral bacon is nothing new.  He could well do it again.  Democrats, then, might continue their hold on the U. S. Senate.

Or, the state and national news media, not to mention the voters, might reach the opposite conclusion before the final vote.  A little bit of this Landrieu-Needs-the-Crook analysis goes a long way, after all.  Senator Landrieu, on top of all else she has to explain, does not want to explain to America whether or not it is a good thing that her re-election may rest on the efforts of an 86-year-old felon freshly out of federal prison by way of a political corruption conviction.

Elliott Stonecipher

Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted.  Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is requested and appreciated.