LANDRIEU’S EARLY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO JINDAL

With all the suspense of a Hollywood ending, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu announced Saturday afternoon that she would be the deciding 60th vote to allow the Senate version of the health care reform bill to come to the Senate floor without filibuster. Notice that she did not say she was voting for the bill at this juncture. Landrieu has relished her role as a centrist in the ongoing debate — and extracted concessions from Majority Leader Harry Reid, in return for supporting the procedural vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate. Ironically, that concession — a $100 million to $300 million dollar fix for Louisiana’s Medicaid program, which was set to be cut due to a skewed post-Katrina calculation of wages by the government — may ironically do more to help Gov. Bobby Jindal politically than it will Landrieu. While Landrieu will be bludgeoned by opponents of the bill and Republicans, Jindal can breathe a little easier in terms of the 2010 state budget, which was expected to contain a massive reduction in Medicaid payments to hospitals, doctors and other medical providers due to the funding formula recalculation. Interestingly, Landrieu has not said she will support the bill on the Senate floor at this point — merely that she supported the procedural process for allowing it to be considered. Peep thinks that Landrieu’s support on that vote will cost Harry Reid something else on Landrieu’s wish list for Louisiana.



DARDENNE STILL NIBBLING AT SENATE RACE

Secretary of State Jay “To Be or Not to Be” Dardenne continues to quietly gauge a Republican primary challenge to U.S. Sen. David Vitter in 2010.

According to two separate sources, Dardenne has conducted polling to gauge Vitter’s vulnerability, as well as visited with some long-time political supporters in Baton Rouge recently to ask their opinion of a challenge to Vitter. As Vitter tops the $4 million mark in fundraising, Dardenne’s dawdling on a decision continues to work against him. While Vitter remains damaged goods over his involvement in the D.C. Madame prostitution scandal, (poll numbers show that less than 50 percent of voters think he should be re-elected — a serious problem for an incumbent), his fundraising puts him at a distinct advantage in a primary that is less than a year away. The affable and politically spotless Dardenne would also spell bad news for Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, who has already taken on the credibility of the soiled Vitter with female voters, after Vitter failed to support an amendment to a defense bill that would prohibit defense contractors from mandating that their employees arbitrate sexual harassment/abuse claims. Vitter was thereafter confronted about the vote at a town hall meeting by an LSU student who was a rape victim, claiming he had turned his back on such crimes. Dardenne’s greatest enemy is time — the longer he waits to make a decision, the more difficult his chances of overtaking the wounded but well-funded incumbent.



STREAMLINING STAGE FOR KENNEDY

Reminiscent Jason in Friday the 13th,  State Treasurer John Kennedy, with three statewide defeats (up to this point at least) has sprung a new political life by filling the vacuum left by Jindal’s absence of leadership at the Streamlining Government Commission. Much to the annoyance of businessmen, members of the Jindal administration and elected officials serving on the commission, Kennedy has grabbed the steering wheel of the commission, and in the process resurrected himself politically and check-mated Jindal on a couple of key political issues. The first was forcing the delay of a $50 million computer upgrade contract for the state’s outdated network. Although work had already commenced, the Jindal administration was forced to yield when Kennedy generated enough publicity about the state’s looming budget crisis. Next was a move to force an “independent” study on the efficacy of remodeling the Charity Hospital in New Orleans, versus continuing the ongoing multi-dimensional saga between LSU, Tulane and FEMA about who pays for and governs a new hospital. Over the objection of Jindal’s own commissioner of administration, Kennedy was able to pass the independent study recommendation by a 7-3 vote. Kennedy has shown no fear in challenging Jindal administration policies, and to date has not seemingly paid any political price (either from Jindal or his legislative leadership) for doing so. Kennedy ran for attorney general, governor (which he dropped out of), for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat against David Vitter in 2004, and for the U.S. Senate as a Republican against Mary Landrieu in 2008. With Jindal setting his sights nationally and Vitter being susceptible to a Republican primary challenger, Republicans should take note: He’s Baaaaack!

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