Yogi Berra famously said, "It ain't over till it's over." Given the bizarre twists and turns of the 2016 election season — nationally and in Louisiana — one has to wonder if the madness really will be over when we wake up Wednesday morning (Nov. 9). Dear God, let it be so.
Every time we thought this election couldn't get any weirder, it did. Trump upended the GOP primaries. We felt the Bern. Hillary had an email scandal. The Russians hacked DNC servers and (allegedly) state voter databases. Video showed Trump making raw comments years ago about grabbing women "by the p—y." Hillary had another email scandal. Trump has a man-crush on Vladimir Putin. The once-impenetrable FBI now leaks like a rusty faucet and plays politics like a Super PAC.
Then there's the Louisiana Senate race, which gave us the following gems:
• "I'd rather drink weed killer."
• "I'm not opposed to all Jews."
• "Campbell sided with Duke."
• " ... and your goat."
Most of those quotes came before last week's "debate" at Dillard University, which allowed neo-Nazi and convicted con man David Duke to spew his racist, anti-Semitic bile over national TV (see Commentary, p. 8). In some ways, that spectacle was the perfect ending — and the perfect metaphor — for this year's elections: an electoral train wreck engineered by one out-of-control candidate.
Even after one Louisiana Senate candidate withdrew, the 23 remaining hopefuls still made it the most crowded statewide field in memory, if not history. That has made it very difficult even for most "major" candidates to distinguish themselves. The exceptions have been state Treasurer John Kennedy, who has run statewide at least nine times now, and Duke, who, well, you know...
Despite the officially nonpartisan nature of Tuesday's "jungle" primary, Louisiana's Senate race has devolved into two virtual primaries — one between the two leading Democrats (Caroline Fayard and Foster Campbell), and one among the three best-financed Republicans (Kennedy and U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming).
Most polls have Kennedy out front by 5 to 7 percentage points, which suggests strongly that he will make the runoff, but otherwise polls have varied widely. Campbell, Fleming, Boustany and Fayard could finish in a tight bunch.
Because voters know relatively little about most of the candidates, last-minute developments could make a difference. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand endorsed Boustany last week. Fayard's attacks against Duke and against Campbell for "siding" with Duke, while roundly criticized, resonated among black voters. In New Orleans, several major black ballots carried both Campbell and Fayard as endorsed candidates. Fleming poured money into TV ads in the final days and appeared to benefit from the take-no-prisoners war between Kennedy and Boustany.
No matter who makes the runoff, most local and national experts say Louisiana is likely to replace Vitter with a Republican. The only certainty is that the race will go to a Dec. 10 runoff.
Hopefully, things will get back to normal after that. After this election season, however, I'm not sure what passes for "normal" anymore.