You could still see a blotchy red mark on his cheek minutes after the blow was dealt. At least metaphorically, you could see it — a sideways strawberry with five fingers protruding toward the ear. You could see it in his eyes, which danced around nervously during his closing statement. You could also hear it his cadence as he twice repeated a sentence about voters wanting change in the U.S. Senate. And thanks to the technology of TiVo and the online archival efforts of Louisiana Public Broadcasting, the verbal smack-down of the election cycle can be viewed at anytime, no doubt to the ire of GOP Treasurer John Kennedy.
In a way, Kennedy was asking for it during the Oct. 12 debate hosted by LPB and the Council for a Better Louisiana. Like throwing wet spaghetti against a wall, he reached for any available way to link incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu to Democratic nominee Barack Obama. It was old hand and nothing new. He had been likening Obama and Landrieu to liberal peas in a pod for weeks. But noticeably different was Kennedy’s overly-boastful rhetoric about Republican nominee John McCain. He was clearly confident that the “Straight Talk Express” could benefit his own campaign.
That’s when Landrieu’s hand came down with a vengeance: “John, I know you’re trying very hard, but Sen. McCain’s coattails are not long enough for you.”
It drew the only boisterous round of applause that evening offered by the Baton Rouge audience, which consisted mostly of college students. She might as well have told him she knew the real John Kennedy, was friends with the real John Kennedy and he was not the real John Kennedy. It was certainly enough for Lloyd Bentsen to make debate history in 1988 during his vice presidential showdown against Dan Quayle. And considering the flack Kennedy has taken for switching parties within the last year and the subsequent Democratic smear campaign that he’s “one confused politician,” the zinger may have drawn another thunderous response.
Three days later in New Orleans, during the second televised Senate debate co-sponsored by WDSU-TV, the red mark was absent from Kennedy’s face and his composure was restored. But the word “McCain” never passed his lips, even once. There were references, however, to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. The treasurer said he wanted to bring the same “fundamental, lasting, conservative change” to Washington, D.C., that Jindal initiated at the State Capitol. It was a new strategy that is still being echoed on the campaign trail today.
It’s a smart choice for Kennedy, especially with Jindal’s approval ratings nearing 80 percent. But it’s also structurally ironic. Kennedy is steering clear of presidential politics, which arguably made Jindal a national brand this year due to McCain’s hot-cold VP courtship of the young governor. It’s likewise an issue that keeps Landrieu at bay, since the senior senator isn’t above wanting her own piece of the Ethics Express. “The governor and Sen. Landrieu have worked closely together on many important projects, including hurricane recovery and infrastructure projects,” says Landrieu Press Secretary Scott Schneider.
But even though Jindal has officially endorsed Kennedy, there have been lingering questions as to why the governor isn’t playing a larger role in the treasurer’s increasingly clumsy campaign. A search of Kennedy’s campaign Web site reveals only 10 references to Jindal, of which half are from media reports containing small mentions. The rest are newsletters or press releases where Kennedy praises Jindal. There haven’t been any commercials cut with two men, either. It doesn’t make sense — if anyone could give the Kennedy campaign the shot in the arm it needs, it would certainly be one of the most popular Republicans in the nation.
Instead, Louisiana voters are reading about a jet-setting Jindal in their daily newspapers. He’s been campaigning and raising money for Republican congressional candidates in Missouri and Texas. On the day LSU lost miserably to Florida, Jindal was also in the Sunshine State stumping for McCain and raising cash for his own benefit. Still, he’s not completely absent. Jindal has hosted other fund-raisers for U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise in the 1st Congressional District (Jindal’s previous public post) and state Sen. Bill Cassidy in Baton Rouge’s 6th Congressional District.
But what about Kennedy? What has Jindal done for him lately? The enormously popular governor isn’t exactly hitting every corner of the state, in person or over the airwaves, explaining why the Republican philosophy espoused by Kennedy is the right choice on Nov. 4. There are theories ranging from the meritorious (like Kennedy’s admitted gaffe in cheering the failure of a farm aid bill Jindal supported) to the questionable (Landrieu clearly has more congressional experience, which would make Jindal’s job of landing federal dough easier).
According to Melissa Sellers, Jindal’s communications director, the governor is chipping in; he hosted a fund-raiser with President Bush for Kennedy earlier this year and attended another meet-and-greet for the campaign last week in Metairie. Sellers also confirmed that Jindal has officially endorsed Kennedy, not that there was any doubt. The decision just seemed to arrive without fireworks.
Roger Villere Jr., chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, says Jindal made many friends during his time in Congress and part of this whirlwind tour is due to those connections. On the other side of the coin, Villere says Jindal is now a GOP superstar and in high demand. The governor has staff dedicated to his national outreach, and more trips around the country are expected. “I don’t see [Jindal] leading the charge right now, but he has been extremely helpful to the treasurer,” Villere says. “A lot of what the governor is doing in other states has also been requested by the McCain campaign. Plus, don’t forget that he’s focused on doing the work of Louisiana.”
As the election boils down to less than two weeks, it seems Kennedy needs Jindal more than ever. The National Republican Senatorial Committee planned to yank its television advertisements that attack Landrieu to move financial resources to other states but later stated that it would continue to run the ads for another week in Louisiana. Additionally, the usually conservative Advocate, Baton Rouge’s daily newspaper, recently weighed in with this surprising headline: “Landrieu looks strong; Experts feel Kennedy needs game-changer to win.” Kennedy spokesman Lenny Alcivar says the NRSC had already exceeded its original budget for Louisiana but stuck around due to the election’s competitiveness. There’s also enough time left in the election for anything to happen.
As for Jindal, Alcivar says he has been a behind-the-scenes constant in the campaign, offering a “bunch of strategic advice” to Kennedy and helping with fund-raisers. But everyone knows the most important stretch of any campaign is during the final weeks, which is when Jindal might step up and stump it hard for his Brother in Bureaucracy, his fellow Republican. On this front, Alcivar offers only two words in closing: “Stay tuned.”
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Pat Bowlen steps down; typhoon caused Taiwan plane crash; Arizona execution botched and more national and international news for Thursday, July 24, 2014.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.
The lone Democrat to announce he's running for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics as "running the state like a big Ponzi scheme."
State police have arrested a 42-year-old Kaplan man in the July 7 hit and run fatality crash that killed a bicyclist on Louisiana Highway 92 near Milton.
Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy has picked up support for his U.S. Senate campaign from a former GOP competitor.
Lisa Hargis Smith lived a mysterious life as seen with her death earlier this month and its impact on the community of those who knew her, whether as a star student in Lafayette High’s class of ‘69, or later as a woman struggling with homelessness and mental illness.
Attorney Valerie Gotch Garrett will announce on Tuesday that she plans to run for the Division E seat of the 15th Judicial District Court.
Back in 2012, three Baton Rouge attorneys came to the aid of several disgruntled police officers with a high-profile lawsuit against the Lafayette Police chief and a number of higher-ups in city-parish government, but in a federal courtroom Thursday, their claims of conspiracy coupled with a lack of evidence backfired and the case was dismissed.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration intends to rework how it pays the private managed care networks that provide health services to two-thirds of Louisiana's Medicaid patients.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration is raising health insurance rates and cutting benefits for state employees and retirees, to keep their insurance program solvent.
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials spent much of Thursday reviewing their reaction to this week’s bomb threat, which led to the closure and evacuation of UL Lafayette and Girard Park, and a massive search Wednesday for two alleged explosive devices.
"We're not in a better place from the policy perspective than we were two weeks ago," says Education Superintendent John White, commenting on Thursday's face-to-face meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal to discuss their dispute over Common Core.
Gov. Bobby Jindal appears to remain unmoved by offers of a compromise on procuring testing materials tied to the Common Core based on a terse statement his office released following a meeting Thursday with Superintendent John White.