Cao on the Run

Posted by root | 19 Apr, 2011

Former one-term Congressman Joseph Cao (R) has announced he is running for Louisiana Attorney General against Democrat turned Republican incumbent Buddy Caldwell who was first elected Attorney General four years ago.

Joseph Cao was very lucky when he beat longtime incumbent Congressman William Jefferson (D) in 2008.  You might say Cao was in the right place at the right time.  A December runoff election against an embattled Jefferson provided the path to victory for Cao.

During his term in Congress Joseph Cao talked like a Republican but often voted like a Democrat saying he was representing his district.  One example was his vote for Obama Care before later voting against it.  With that vote Cao alienated his base of Republicans who had flocked to the polls to vote for him and failed to expand his base by attracting Democrats to his side.  This is the worst of all worlds.  Those who favored it are not converted to his side, and those who supported him are now mad that he voted for it.  At least make one side happy in such controversial Congressional votes.   But that did not happen here.

As a politician Congressman Cao was not the best.  His staff never understood the local political process or the dividing line between Orleans and Jefferson Parishes.  His focus was on New Orleans which is important but so is Jefferson Parish.  He also failed to win the imaginations of local Republicans or voters in general for that matter. 

Cao fell prey to thinking he was elected to Congress because he was the best guy to serve in Washington.  But in reality, Joseph Cao was elected to Congress because he was not William Jefferson.  Edwin Edwards was elected Governor in 1991 because he was not David Duke.  These kinds of elections are not mandates to lead but rather messages to politicians that voters simply don’t want the other guy; and, since you are not the other guy, we will vote for you.

Now in all fairness to Mr. Cao his district was a difficult one for him to represent.  He was a Republican in a very strong Democratic district that voted overwhelming for President Obama in 2008 and is expected to do so again in 2012.  No matter what Joseph Cao did in Congress his re-election was in doubt the moment he was elected.

Incumbent AG Buddy Caldwell has no such problems.  While still a Democrat he joined with other Attorneys General to oppose Obama Care, a move that improved his political stand in Louisiana with conservative Democrats and with Republicans in a state where Barack Obama and Obama Care are not popular.  Now as a Republican Caldwell has positioned himself well for re-election.  Unless Joseph Cao becomes a dynamic campaigner, Buddy Caldwell is on his way to another term as Louisiana’s Attorney General.