Not that Kennedy. This Kennedy! That’s right. Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has fulfilled the first part of the Vitter prophecy by switching to the GOP. Kennedy announced the switch on the website of his reelection campaign. Kennedy has been heavily recruited by Karl Rove to challenge Sen. Mary Landrieu, possibly the Senate’s only vulnerable Democrat, next year.
This decision, while expected, is still big news. Mary Landrieu barely won her seat twice, and it now appears likely that she will face another formidable opponent. She has a sizable war chest and, unlike her Party leadership, does not scare Louisianans.
Unfortunately for her, that may not be enough. The state’s demographics changed dramatically in the wake of Katrina, and it is still unclear how many voters returned to New Orleans as opposed to how many stayed in Texas or Mississippi. And though she fought for funds after the Hurricane, some may hold her partially accountable - fairly or unfairly - for the lack of preparedness beforehand. She will also face the harshest climate for a national election in Louisiana in her three races. In 1996, Landrieu narrowly defeated Woody Jenkins by less than 6000 votes while Bill Clinton carried the state by 12 points. In 2002, there was no Presidential race. Now, a Republican candidate at the top of the ticket is all but certain to carry the state for the third consecutive time. What’s more is that Louisiana has also elected its first Republican Senator since Reconstruction since Landrieu last ran.
Before challenging Landrieu, Kennedy first faces what should be an easy reelection this November. He will be campaigning and spending money across the state in the unofficial beginning of his Senate campaign. Look for many to see the results of the gubernatorial race and Kennedy’s own margin of victory as a precursor of what will happen next year. If Kennedy fails to rack up a sizable win in two and a half months, his Senate campaign may be over before it begins. If he does win the blowout that is expected, Sen. Landrieu might not sleep much between November and November.