Dardenne’s Betrayal

Joe Cunningham, III

Joe Cunningham, III

In the gubernatorial race here in Louisiana, Jay Dardenne has made a risky move, and it is one that will make or break his political career in Louisiana. He has endorsed the liberal Democratic candidate, John Bel Edwards.

I’m no fan of Vitter’s past. A lot of people aren’t. I wasn’t particularly enthused by the campaign. A lot of people weren’t. But for Dardenne to call himself a conservative (all sorts of data points to the contrary, mind you) and support Edwards shows exactly the kind of man he is.

He is incredibly bitter about how this race turned out. He was third among Republican candidates, fourth overall, in the October election. The barbs between those two during the primary were sharp and vicious. It’s no shock that Dardenne wouldn’t endorse Vitter – in fact, during a debate, he said he wouldn’t endorse anyone during the runoff. But for him to jump on board with the Democratic candidate leaves you wondering just how bad things were.

Right now, there’s speculation that Dardenne is aiming for or has been promised the top policy job for Edwards. The Commissioner of Administration gig is an immensely powerful one. And it pays very well.  There is also speculation that he told Vitter he’d endorse him if he got that job in a Vitter administration, and Vitter gave him a very forceful “No.”

This doesn’t bode well for Vitter, but it’s not necessarily going to lock in an Edwards victory, either. Edwards is going to have to find a new line of attack on Vitter, because previous statewide elections have shown that the state doesn’t seem to care much for his sordid past. Still, Vitter’s biggest challenge will be to re-connect in a meaningful way with Republican voters in the state.

Edwards, meanwhile, will have to work harder to convince people he really is a social conservative, and he’s going to have to explain why his voting record in the legislature is decidedly not conservative.

But, Dardenne? He had better hope that Vitter loses. Louisiana’s GOP hasn’t had strong leadership in recent years, but Vitter will consolidate power, exercise an iron grip, and probably set fire to Dardenne’s career if he wins.

Joe Cunningham is a conservative commentator, Front Page Editor at RedState.com, contributor to The Hayride, and a teacher in south Louisiana. You can find him on Twitter at @JoePCunningham and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jcunninghamwrites.