The Louisiana Governor’s Mansion flipped to the Democrats just four years after Bobby Jindal won re-election against a Democrat who only got 17% of the vote with Jindal winning every parish. There are some lessons national Republicans should take away.
First, candidates matter. David Vitter was a terrible candidate. He threw Bobby Jindal under the bus to show Louisiana that he too was tired of Jindal. The state party did not take so kindly to Vitter’s scorched earth policy against Republicans. But then there were the prostitutes. Oh, and there was the abortion.
Vitter was a terrible, terrible candidate. David Vitter was the iceberg to the Louisiana GOP’s titanic.
Second, other candidates refused to put their own egos aside and force consolidation. Vitter could have been beaten by another Republican, but both Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne refused to do what was necessary for the good of the party. Then, after losing to Vitter, they sided with the Democrats.
Remember, when conservatives win, the establishment guys take their football and go home. Happens all the time. In this case, had either Scott Angelle or Jay Dardenne bowed out before the primary, the other would have beaten Vitter. All the polling showed it. But they refused.
Interestingly enough, neither Dardenne nor Angelle wanted to run as a conservative. That left Vitter running as the conservative in the race and a lot of Louisiana Republicans were happy to go down with Vitter (no pun intended) than hitch their wagons to either Dardenne or Angelle. Angelle was a Democrat turned Republican. Dardenne is the Gollum of the Louisiana Republican Party, coveting power relentlessly and ultimately biting the ring off Vitter’s hand before killing off his own political future.
That leads to the third lesson — Republican primary voters want an actual conservative and at this point would rather go down fighting than sell out to candidates posing as Democrat-lite. Conservatives can win, but not with guys like David Vitter as their standard bearer. Still, for a good many conservatives in Louisiana, Angelle and Dardenne both were a bridge too far and since neither dropped out, more moderate Louisiana Republicans refused to consolidate.
Ego really lost the Louisiana GOP the Governor’s Mansion.
Finally, this is the biggest take away: running against Barack Obama is not a strategy to overcome a crappy candidate. Mitt Romney tried it in 2012. David Vitter tried it. David Vitter’s Republican competition tried it. They all tried to out bash Barack Obama.
But in doing so, they did not say what they would do. They just beat up the President without an alternative positive vision to govern. On top of that, they were terribly unlikable people. Running against Barack Obama can work. It has worked repeatedly. Candidates do not even need to say what they would do differently. But running against Barack Obama with nothing to offer has to be done with good candidates, not men accused of paying for prostitutes’ abortions.