As popular as Gov. Bobby Jindal has remained since taking office in 2008, he has not shown much in the way of coattails. Virtually every candidate he has supported since his inauguration has lost. No doubt that vexes the 40-year-old governor with obvious national ambitions, but he can at least take comfort in knowing he's not likely to screw up his own re-election later this year.
Besides, before it's all over, a lot of incumbents might be thanking Jindal for helping them get re-elected this year. That includes a lot of legislators who have issues with Jindal.
No, Jindal isn't about to grow coattails and issue endorsements en masse. Still, I believe his personal popularity will have a trickle-down effect in the statewide elections — and quite a few at the local level as well.
I'm not a fan of trickle-down economics, but I totally buy the theory of trickle-down politics. It goes like this: The governor sets the tone. If the governor is popular and untouched by scandal — and if there are no overarching, divisive issues — voters tend to be comfortable with the status quo.
All recent statewide surveys continue to show that Jindal is popular and that voters think the state is on the right track. That's good not just for Jindal but also for incumbents up and down the ballot.
Want proof? Take a look around.
Chances are you don't see a lot of political signs. Most incumbent legislators report little or no noise coming from potential opponents. In other races, the story is the same: no groundswell against incumbents; no widespread voter unrest. Voters may not be overjoyed, but they're not angry, either. Call it The Jindal Effect.
Take Jefferson Parish, for example. Jefferson was shaken to its core by the scandals of the Broussard administration, and no doubt we'll see some hotly contested races for open seats. Still, the political mood in Jefferson hardly resembles the aftermath of a nasty corruption scandal. Perhaps some credit goes to new Parish President John Young, whose image as a reformer is almost as burnished as Jindal's, but that doesn't explain the dearth of known challengers up and down the ballot there.
Ditto for New Orleans, where new Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to get high marks — and where the only incumbents who appear to face tough challengers are those whose new districts pit them against fellow incumbents.
In St. Tammany Parish, longtime GOP activist Pat Brister is a virtual shoo-in to succeed term-limited Parish President Kevin Davis. While that no doubt reflects Brister's personal popularity, it also reflects a general feeling among voters that there's no need to rock the boat.
Most statewide incumbents likewise lack major challengers. The exceptions are Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Secretary of State Tom Schedler, but each has unique reasons for attracting opponents. Dardenne just won the office a year ago — and nobody expects Jindal to complete his second term, which makes the race for lieutenant governor a de facto race for governor. Schedler ascended to his job when Dardenne won the No. 2 job last year. That race thus has no elected incumbent, which guarantees a large field.
To be sure, there will be some hot races on the ballot this fall. But chances are they'll be in districts that either changed significantly as a result of redistricting, lack an incumbent or have an incumbent whom voters have a specific — and probably very local — reason to dislike. There aren't many such districts.
On other fronts, all's quiet. The Jindal Effect is good news for incumbents — including those whose politics don't align with Jindal's.