With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.

The war is currently being fought on the page, with the first missive—mailed last month—coming from Dr. Tommy French of Baton Rouge, who’s asking his colleagues on the Republican State Central Committee to sign a petition. Sources tell LaPolitics he has captains in each region of the state collecting signatures in an effort to get the executive committee to vote on the matter.

In response, state Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington penned his own letter to RSCC members and Republican elected officials. “There are those who are trying to ‘clear the field’ for their preferred candidate by putting pressure on elected officials and party activists,” he wrote in a letter mailed in March. “I sincerely believe this is a serious mistake.”

Retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, also jockeying for attention from Republicans for his bid, said he was “confused” as to why there’s even an effort underway.

“I’ve also seen polling that indicates Congressman Cassidy isn’t even as strong a candidate against Sen. Landrieu as a generic Republican. So that’s also odd,” Maness said. “But then again, our party leadership has a woeful record of nominating poor candidates to run against-and ultimately lose to-Mary Landrieu.”

Party leaders counter it’s a byproduct of the open primary process and that Cassidy’s fundraising for the current quarter that’s coming to a close will help his viability shine.

“Assuming his money and Mary’s money are at the same levels they’ve been, his campaign finance report will make this all the more easier,” said a party insider.

With Landrieu reserving $2.6 million in airtime beginning this month, the state and national parties are eager to get involved and spend money on Cassidy. Right now they can only spread money over the field, but an endorsement would allow the party to focus its resources.

Then there’s “Rule 11,” which allows the RNC to financially get behind a candidate if the party chairman, committeeman and committeewoman all sign an endorsement letter. Sources, however, say all are not in agreement.

Roger Villere, chairman of the state party since 2004, said only, “It’s a process.”

What’s more likely to happen first, some believe, is that a majority of signatures will be collected through French’s drive and the executive committee will meet, probably using telecommunications, and vote well ahead of the RSCC’s regularly scheduled June meeting.

“They really don’t even need to do that, get the signatures,” said a source. “There are no rules in regard to endorsements. Only a practice.”   

If the big nod is delivered for Cassidy, it could empower Hollis to become the anti-establishment candidate on the right, where Maness set up shop long ago. But more than anything else, it’s a sign of things to come for Louisiana Republicans.

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