Analysis: Each Candidate For LA Governor Faces Hurdles

BATON ROUGE (AP) — In the predictions that always come with a heated election cycle, Louisiana's political prognosticators regularly suggest Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter appears poised to easily walk away with a victory in the fall governor's race.

         But Vitter, just like his three main competitors, has challenges to overcome. How each of the four men handles those roadblocks will determine who moves into the governor's mansion in January, and one stumble can shatter an expected narrative.

         Vitter, no doubt, has the edge in the race to fill the open seat being vacated by Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is term-limited. He's got millions more in campaign contributions on his side than any of his opponents combined, assuring he and his supporters can blanket the airwaves with ads touting him and attacking his competitors.

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         However, Vitter also has nearly universal name recognition in his home state and still tops out in the low- to mid-30s in polls. That suggests he's not the first choice of most voters and has some persuading to do, while saddled with the lingering impact of a 2007 prostitution scandal that damaged some people's perception of the senator.

         The lone major Democrat in the race, state Rep. John Bel Edwards has to figure out if he can find an effective way to persuade voters to choose a Democrat again in a state that has voted solidly red for statewide elected jobs in recent years.

         So far, polls suggest an Edwards-Vitter runoff election in November. But from there, the task becomes more difficult for Edwards to pick up the support he needs to beat a Republican in this conservative Deep South state.

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         Meanwhile, Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne share similar plights, needing to boost their name recognition before the Oct. 24 election and peel off support from Edwards so they can leapfrog the Democrat into that November runoff against Vitter.

         A Republican against Republican matchup appears more threatening to Vitter, if the other GOP contender could manage to appeal to Democrats and independents against the conservative senator.

         The trouble for Edwards, Angelle and Dardenne is they have to work toward their goals with only a fraction of the massive campaign account that Vitter has amassed.

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         That fundraising prowess is what drives the frequently repeated suggestion that the race is Vitter's to lose.

         According to the most recent reports filed with the state ethics board, Vitter is sitting on $5 million in his campaign account, compared to nearly $1.9 million for Dardenne, nearly $1.1 million for Edwards and just over $1 million for Angelle.

         But that's not all for Vitter.

         A separate political action committee created to boost Vitter's candidacy for governor, the Fund for Louisiana's Future, reported $4.4 million in its account to independently advocate for the senator — and to trash his opponents as needed. Super PACs set up for Angelle and Dardenne have far less money to compete.

         The candidate slate also helps Vitter.

         With both Angelle and Dardenne in, they likely could bleed support off each other, making it more difficult for either one to reach a runoff. And with no other major Democrat in the race besides Edwards, the state representative from Amite is expected to coalesce much of the support from those voters who still push the button for Democratic candidates, making it harder for Angelle or Dardenne to get to a runoff.

         Still, for a Louisiana election cycle, there's a lot of time left to upend the narrative and shake things up.

         The sign-up period for candidates isn't until Sept. 8-10, leaving the long-shot possibility that some other prominent contender could jump into the governor's race. Plus, besides Angelle, none of the major candidates has really done much advertising yet, and those strategies can change an election's outcome.

         As the non-Vitter candidates often point out, former Govs. Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco weren't at the front of the pack in the early days of their individual races, but they reached the mansion.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte




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