Several sources have confirmed that Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu will announce tomorrow (Tuesday) that he is running for mayor after all. Why the back-and-forth Hamlet routine again? Thats probably the first thing Landrieu will have to explain. Whats certain is that Landrieus entry into the race will turn it upside down. He probably enters as the frontrunner. The big question is, can he close this time?
Another big question: Will any other candidates bow out? Most adversely affected by Landrieus decision will be all the white candidates except Rob Couhig, the races only Republican. Leslie Jacobs and John Georges have both said privately that they would not run if Landrieu were in the race. That he waited this long is not going to play well with their top supporters, but thats show biz
I have it from several sources very close to Landrieu, including some who actually heard it from him, that he called all the candidates today to let them know, after telling Gov. Bobby Jindal as well. Which means, of course, that this news wont stay bottled up for long.
Now, as for Landrieus reasons for changing his mind:
I hear he has taken a recent poll that shows he has overwhelming support, given the current field. That differs from the DemocracyCorps poll last May, which showed very solid support for Landrieu but also somewhere near 20 percent of white voters saying they absolutely would not vote for Landrieu under any circumstances. According to one of my sources, Landrieu says its different now. Well see.
Is this a do-over? Landrieu was widely criticized after his wimpy campaign against Mayor Ray Nagin in the 2006 runoff, when Nagin pummeled him in ads but Landrieu failed even to throw a punch (much less land one). Nagin even beat him up in debates, which is one arena in which Landrieu should have out-pointed Nagin. This time, well see a different Mitch Landrieu, he has promised his friends. No doubt, but how different will he be? That is, will he merely be bolder on the issues and unafraid (this time) to criticize a black opponent, or will he be obnoxious and arrogant (i.e., will he go overboard in the opposite direction from last time)? Well see. (I confess to being a fan of the Landrieu family, but the Landrieu men in politics are notoriously thin-skinned. It will be interesting to see how Mitch holds up under the expected initial round of criticism for taking too long and going back and forth about running.)
The rest of the field looks unimpressive. Yeah, thats what a lot of voters are saying, and supposedly Landrieu got some key unsolicited calls from VIPPs (Very Important Political Padróns) urging him to consider getting back in. That may be true, but he got just as many responses of not again from top donors who backed him last time. Besides, while voters seem unimpressed with the field thus far, the campaign is just beginning. Thats why we wage campaigns to give the candidates a chance to distinguish themselves. The campaign is just beginning. Why wait til now to decide that the field is unimpressive?
Which bring me to some things hell have to explain:
In July, when he announced he was not running, he issued a statement saying that there were several very impressive candidates already running. The same krewe is still in the race plus Leslie Jacobs. Whats so unimpressive about them now?
Speaking of Jacobs, she went to Landrieu twice in recent weeks, according to my sources and flat-out told him that she would not spend her money on an expensive TV ad buy if he were going to run. His response: Nothing has changed. That was his response as recently as two weeks ago, according to several sources. So
what has changed? (In fairness to Landrieu, sources say the change was the recent poll results, which, again, are said to be overwhelming for Landrieu.) Still, he seems to have led her on. What will he say to her now? Did he in fact call her personally?
At the end of the day, several factors are going to complicate things, some in Landrieus favor and some against him:
Mary Landrieu. Just as in 2006, when U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieus re-election bid factored heavily into peoples opinion of Mitch, she will once again be a major factor in this campaign. Specifically, her vote on health care reform will be a major factor. If she votes one way, she will alienate his black base. If she votes another way, she will re-energize the whites who dont like any of the Landrieus to begin with. Its not fair to either Mary or Mitch that this is the case, but its the case. Thats politics, and its just the way it is. He will have to deal with this.
His last campaign for mayor. Landrieu will have to convince those who bled for him last time that he has grown as a candidate and as a politician. How he handles this will speak volumes about how he will perform as mayor. Also, he has made some new enemies in the mean time, such as when he took on the State Museum Board (and won, but it was bloody).
His relationship, if there is one, with Ray Nagin. Do he and Nagin speak? Mitch might even be Nagins preference over some of the others. Then again, given Nagins recent injection of race into the race, how will THAT affect a Landrieu candidacy? No matter what, Nagin will be a factor on several levels in this race.
All or Nothing. This will either be Landrieus Ultimate Triumph or his Last Hurrah. If he wins, he will claim a crown that he has long coveted. If he loses, his career is all but over. I dont see him running safely for re-election in 2011 if he loses this one. The GOP gave him a virtual pass last time because it put all its eggs in Bobby Jindals basket. This time, the GOP will find and finance a strong candidate against him if he loses.
Wither the GOP? Last time, the Uptown Republicans voted en masse against him because they wanted to make sure they got Mary in 2008. That didnt work out so well for them, as Mary won re-election handily. Now, the GOP may want to be FOR Landrieu in the mayors race to open the Lieutenant Governors office to a Republican. Could this be a good spot for John Kennedy to land? Just wondering.
All this and more after Tuesdays announcement by Landrieu.