With all the recent surveys showing Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal trouncing Gov. Kathleen Blanco, it would seem odd to say he'd better watch out. But that's exactly what he should do, because history tells us that it's possible to peak too early.
Consider the governor's race of 1987, for example. In that contest, the incumbent, Edwin Edwards, confidently predicted from the get-go that he would face Republican Congressman Bob Livingston in the runoff and beat him. Truth is, EWE was about as popular as the avian flu, but his swagger and legendary vote-getting abilities scared many conservatives into abandoning Livingston at the last minute in favor of upstart conservative Democrat Buddy Roemer. Livingston ran third. Faced with certain defeat at the hands of Roemer, EWE threw in the towel on the night of the primary.
Of course, Jindal is not The Silver Zipper by any stretch. For starters, Jindal has little to no baggage, whereas Edwards had just come off two federal racketeering trials. He was acquitted of all charges, but mortally wounded politically -- but that's beside the point. My point here is that EWE in 1987 positioned himself as the antithesis of his likely GOP rival and boldly predicted a victory, in much the same way as Jindal this year has been cast as the antithesis of Blanco.
To his credit, Jindal has charted a low-key course, at least for now, but his supporters and a handful of conservative bloggers can't seem to contain themselves. Almost daily we get email messages about how badly Blanco is faring and how lopsidedly Jindal is going to beat her.
That's where Jindal ought to see warning signs.
Already many Democrats are getting the message, just as Republicans got it in 1987. They're starting to abandon Blanco in search of another Democrat to run against Jindal. And that's not good news for Bobby.
While Jindal consistently crushes Blanco in head-to-head match-ups, I'm not so sure he would fare as well against a less battered and bruised Democrat -- let alone a strong, well-financed conservative Democrat.
Like Congressman Charlie Melancon, who is also a Cajun.
Or former Democratic state party chair Jim Bernhardt, who is also a businessman.
I'm not saying Jindal couldn't beat Melancon or Bernhardt; I'm simply saying he would have a much tougher race on his hands if he faces a Democrat who is not seriously wounded.
For all his popularity, much of Jindal's strength in the upcoming governor's race is derivative. That is, he is wildly popular in comparison to Blanco.
People love rematches. And, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many Jindal supporters are salivating at the idea of a do-over between the Kenner congressman and Blanco.
But what happens if enough Democrats leave Blanco in favor of someone else? What happens if Blanco takes stock of her position and decides not to run?
Bernhardt already is testing the waters, and he's untested as a statewide candidate. For now, Melancon maintains he's not running. He says he's happy in Congress and that that's where he can best serve Louisiana. Indeed, he recently landed some prime committee assignments as a result of the Democratic takeover.
But, if Blanco were to opt out of the race, there likely would be a huge groundswell to draft Melancon. He's perfectly situated not only to run for governor, but also to run against Jindal. Like Jindal, he wouldn't have to give up his congressional seat to make the race. Also like Jindal, his conservative credentials are unassailable; the national GOP did its best to beat him last November and barely laid a glove on him. More importantly, as a Cajun, Melancon's base is the perennial swing vote in statewide elections. It also doesn't hurt that Melancon, like Jindal, takes naturally to the campaign trail and wears well on people.
In short, he could be the Democratic antidote to Bobby Jindal -- not a brilliant young policy wonk, but a solid conservative who could lock up the party's key constituents early and run very well statewide, particularly against Jindal.
Therein lies Bobby's dilemma: the better he continues to look against Blanco, the more likely he won't see her in a runoff. That more than anything may explain why he wants to keep things low-key for now.
Good-bye New Orleans' Rose
To all who encountered her, Rosetta M. "Rose" Hubbard was a gracious and generous lady who opened her heart and her home to friend and stranger alike. This she did quite literally after retiring from her job at Civil District Court, when she and her husband, political leader and businessman Don C. Hubbard, opened Hubbard Mansion, a bed-and-breakfast at 3535 St. Charles Ave., in 2000.
Several of the antique-filled rooms were featured in Gambit Weekly's monthly Home Smart pullout. Miss Rose died on Jan. 26. She leaves behind a legacy of hospitality and kindness that will last even longer than the fond memories of her delicious homemade breakfasts, which many of us were privileged to have enjoyed over the years.
- Bobby Jindal will have a much tougher race on h is hands if he faces a Democrat who is not seriously wounded.