Louisiana governor’s race is all prose, no poetry

Screenshot of the governor's candidates in Thursday's night's televised debate, hosted by WDSU-TV in New Orleans.
Screenshot of the governor’s candidates in Thursday’s night’s televised debate, hosted by WDSU-TV in New Orleans.
By Robert Mann

The late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo famously said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” If only that were true in the prosaic Louisiana governor’s race.

As I watch the four major candidates’ dreary (and sometimes nasty) spots and listen as they trudge wearily through their debates, I find myself strangely unsatisfied – even when I hear words I agree with and read about positions I support.

It’s as if the watercolors are ready. The canvas is primed. But all we get from them is an unsatisfying, paint-by-numbers portrait. They check this box, endorse that position, attack this person and indignantly respond to those allegations. No wonder the polls show that few voters are engaged in the race. No one is inspiring them.

I understand, of course, that some politicians who can deliver a great speech cannot govern. There are also leaders skilled in twisting arms and passing legislation who think that oration is a canoeing term. We need all types of leaders with unique skills to make government work. Clearly, Lincolns and FDRs don’t come along every year – or even every generation.

And governing isn’t always an inspiring or uplifting process. I’m well aware that our politicians’ daily lives more often resemble the antics you’d see on “Veep” than the uplifting drama of “The West Wing.”

Nonetheless, there are moments in a nation’s or state’s history – times of profound crisis or great challenge – when we sorely need inspiring leadership and governance. This is one of those times. Sad to say, our candidates are, so far, not equal to the challenge. They are mostly prose and very little poetry.

Maybe you have thought to yourself about a candidate, as I have: “I agree with him on the issues, but I want more. I want to be motivated and inspired.”

Inspiration is not a cheap or unimportant element in a campaign. If fact, it’s vital to our politics because voters usually don’t make purely rational decisions about candidates. Deciding whom to support is a strange brew of the rational and emotional. Our voting decisions are rarely decided by the sum of a candidate’s positions. Instead, it’s often a gut feeling about that person. That is, what do we perceive as the candidate’s basic values and do they jibe with ours?

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Journalistic malpractice: Thursday’s disgraceful Louisiana gubernatorial debate

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Screenshot of the Louisiana gubernatorial debate on WDSU-TV on Thursday night in New Orleans.

By Robert Mann

I have watched many unsatisfying political debates over the years, but I have never witnessed the kind of journalistic malpractice that WDSU and its moderator, Scott Walker, served to Louisiana voters on Thursday night.

Viewers of the New Orleans TV station and those in a few other markets around the state (and many who could only watch on the internet) were served an often-pointless, rambling discussion of issues that only barely concern Louisiana – or at least pale in comparison to the vital issues that most voters care about.

Thursday night’s showdown was the only time before the Oct. 24 primary that Sen. David Vitter agreed to join Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, state Rep. John Bel Edwards and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle in a televised debate in which the questions were not submitted in advance. That meant this high-stakes meeting of the four major candidates had the potential for a serious, illuminating discussion about the state’s future.

Instead, what we got were a raft of pointless questions to which the candidates had too little time to respond, especially because two other minor candidates were inexplicably invited to participate. With six candidates on stage, WDSU squandered precious airtime that could have gone to one of the men who will actually become our governor next January.

For the first 10 minutes of the hour-long debate, the moderator invited the candidates to discuss Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk of court who was jailed briefly for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In Louisiana, that’s now a moot issue. Every parish is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Why we needed a lengthy discussion about this issue was baffling, given the debate’s severe time restraints. Continue reading

Some thoughts on the new Advocate/WWL governor’s race poll

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By Robert Mann

A new Baton Rouge Advocate/WWL poll out on Sunday night shows each of his three challengers potentially defeating Sen. David Vitter in a November runoff scenario.

As the Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:

Once the presumptive frontrunner in the race to become Louisiana’s next governor, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter would face a bitter uphill runoff battle against any of his three main foes, according to the latest independent polling. 

Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle each bested Vitter in head-to-head match-ups in the new Advocate/WWL-TV poll. Edwards is a state representative from Amite, Dardenne is the lieutenant governor, and Angelle serves on the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

The poll was conducted by Ron Faucheux, of the Washington-based Clarus Research Group. A nationally recognized polling firm, Clarus is not affiliated with any of the campaigns for governor here.

The poll found that, among those surveyed, Vitter and Edwards are tied at 24 percent in the Oct. 24 primary. Angelle trails at 15 percent, followed by Dardenne at 14 percent.

About 18 percent of likely voters said they are still undecided with a month left until Election Day. A runoff will take place Nov. 21 if, as expected, no candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote.

In the potential runoff scenarios polled by Faucheaux, Edwards leads Vitter 45 percent to 41 percent; Angelle leads Vitter 40 percent to 35 percent; and, Dardenne leads Vitter 42 percent to 35 percent. Here are the cross tabs on the runoff scenarios that Crisp kindly shared with me this morning:

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A few observations about the poll:

Continue reading

Louisiana governor candidates on poverty, children’s issues

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I wrote a column in NOLA.com few weeks ago about the very good survey that the United Way of Southeast Louisiana had submitted to the candidates for governor. Most of the questions related to poverty and children.

Here at the following link are the responses from three of the candidates, Scott Angelle, Jay Dardenne and John Bel Edwards. David Vitter, you may not be surprised to learn, refused to respond to the survey.


Jindal: Let the little children come to me so I may use them as props

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By Robert Mann

Imagine this scene at Louisiana’s Governor’s Mansion: “OK, governor, you sit there at the head of the table. Mrs. Jindal, please sit to his right. Wait, let’s get better light on her. Joe, can we get some powder on the governor’s forehead to fix that shine? Now, young man, when your dad bows his head be sure to hold his hand. Don’t look out the window for turtles. Jane, where’s the prop food? We need those green beans, pronto!

“All set? OK, governor, let’s do this. Lights, camera, pray!”

Of course, I don’t know if Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new spot running in Iowa was produced exactly that way (and for you fact-checkers, yes, I know it was created and aired by his “independent” super PAC, “Believe Again,” but it’s essentially his spot).

What we know is that Jindal’s campaign allowed a film crew into the mansion and staged a pre-dinner prayer with his children. Most likely, his staff then posted the raw video on YouTube so that his super PAC could use it in the spot. Voila! No federal campaign rules against coordination were violated since anyone who happened across the public-domain video was free to use it.

It just so happens that “Believe Again” knew where to find this video. Then, the super PAC invited Jindal to speak at one of its events in Iowa. There, Jindal bragged about his Christian faith.  “I wasn’t born a Christian,” he says in the spot. “Took me seven long years to convert at the age of 16.

“I’m unashamed,” Jindal continues. “I’m unembarrassed to tell you that I am a Christian.” My, what a fearless statement to make to an evangelical group in Iowa. Give the man a Bronze Star for the courage to boast about his faith to a room filled with Christians!

Jindal was not finished. The spot turns ominous. “Christian values are under assault right here in America,” Jindal warns, as the audience no doubt glances nervously at the door, waiting for President Barack Obama’s jackbooted thugs to bust up their meeting and haul them off to jail.

Be of good cheer, however, for Jindal had reassuring news: “America’s history is filled with times of spiritual revival right after the hour seemed darkest. Well, the hour seems pretty dark to me right now. We’ve exhausted every alternative. It is time to turn back to God.”

This spot is disturbing, offensive and sacrilegious in several ways.

First, to the uninitiated, when Jindal speaks of America’s “dark” hour, he is not talking about our nation’s sinful tolerance of poverty and racism, our troubling propensity for war or our systematic fouling of God’s earth. He’s talking, instead, about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that he and his frightened disciples believe will prevent them from using their religion as a cloak for anti-gay discrimination. The dog whistle Jindal toots is unambiguous to those tuned to his frequency: The freedom to practice your homophobic bigotry in God’s name is under attack.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

New PPP poll: Vitter Badly Damaged; Highly Vulnerable in Runoff Election

This just in from Public Policy Polling:

A new [statewide] Public Policy Polling survey of Louisiana voters finds that David Vitter has seen a large decline in his popularity over the last year, and that while he’s still favored to make the runoff for Governor he is in a bad position when it comes to a head to head match-up with John Bel Edwards.

Key findings from the survey include:

Vitter has become quite unpopular, with only 34% of voters rating him favorably to 51% with a negative opinion of him. A year ago at this time 46% of voters approved of the job he was doing to just 35% who disapproved. Most striking is how sour even Republicans have gotten on him- only 46% rate him favorably to 44% who see him negatively. And he’s quite unpopular with both independents (30/52) and Democrats (24/58).

-Vitter is still well positioned to make the runoff election. His 27% standing is just behind 28% for John Bel Edwards, but well ahead of the 15% and 14% Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne respectively are receiving. Among voters who are undecided for Governor, only 24% have a favorable opinion of Vitter to 49% with an unfavorable one, suggesting he may not have a lot of room to gain either.

When it comes to the runoff election Vitter trails Edwards 50/38, a massive turn around from a year ago when Vitter led that match up 50/32. 28% of Republican voters even say right now that they would vote for Edwards before they would vote for Vitter. Other Republicans fare better than Vitter in match ups against Edwards- Dardenne leads him 42/40, while Angelle ties at 40%.

Continue reading online at PPP at this link.