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Presidential Spillover on Louisiana Senate Race

courtesy KRVS

With 24 candidates in Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race, you might expect it to be a barnburner, but U-L Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says, “This is the most under-the-radar Senate race that I can remember.”

Cross says he has to blame it on the presidential election.

“It appears to me that it is sucking up all the air in the room. Nothing that’s happening at the state level can compete at all.”

By branding themselves as “outsiders”, many of the candidates have tried to hitch their wagon indirectly to the Trump star, even if they’re not actively supporting the GOP nominee.

“I think people are unhappy with the status quo, and we’re seeing that with the support for Donald Trump. But in terms of this Senate race, they’re hoping it’ll sell, but it’s not the truth.”

Several candidates are openly invoking Trump and wooing the far right, but Cross believes – even in a “red state” like Louisiana – that is a losing strategy.

“That slice of the electorate only makes up about 25 percent of Louisiana voters, so if you split that 3 ways, you don’t have enough to make the runoff.”

And making the runoff is key, which is why you have Democrats Foster Campbell and Caroline Fayard battling each other, and Republicans Charles Boustany, John Fleming and John Kennedy sniping amongst themselves. Cross says the polarizing effect of this presidential race has changed Louisiana’s jungle primary into – essentially – a closed party contest.

“It’s not clear that there is enough support for two Republicans or two Democrats to make the runoff,” Cross explains. “That means that if you’re Republican, you want to be the Republican who comes in first among the Republicans. Where the Democrat finishes is really not of concern to you – unless of course that’s higher than you.”

The problem with the infighting among party candidates, Cross says, is that it gives voters no clear direction.

“Neither party is particularly cohesive in terms of an overall message, so it leaves Louisiana voters with a very scattered field.”