Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE’s presidential campaign is in trouble. No secret there. His poll numbers are dismal — so bad, in fact, that he’s putting GOP strongholds like Arizona, Georgia and Utah in play, and jeopardizing down-ballot Republicans across the nation. Though Trump has made moves recently to right the ship, such as parting ways with controversial campaign chairman Paul Manafort and sticking to the script in several important speeches, many people are saying — to borrow a phrase from The Donald himself — that the disastrous string of gaffes and missteps which followed the Democratic National Convention put the nail in the coffin for his firebrand campaign.
In Louisiana, we are all too familiar with larger-than-life politicians. It’s ingrained in our political culture, and personalities like Trump have the opportunity to thrive. However, personality alone doesn’t win elections; to be successful, you need to run a good campaign. Donald Trump isn’t doing that right now, and he’s making many of the same mistakes Louisiana politicians have made in their failed campaigns.
Donald Trump won’t be our next president come January 20, 2017, and here are 5 parallels from Louisiana to tell you why:
1. Demographics, Demographics, Demographics:
Demographically, the deck has long since been stacked in the Democrats’ favor for this year’s presidential contest — just look at the Electoral College map, where you will see that the path to 270 electoral votes is much easier with the Democratic Party’s floor of 227 than the GOP’s 164. This might seem unfair, but it’s just simple math, as more people live in Blue states than Red. Given these numbers, it’s hard to argue that 2016 wasn’t going to be an uphill battle for Republicans right out of the starting gate — no matter their nominee.
In 2014, Louisiana saw a similar uphill battle, as three-term Democrat Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE fought to retain her seat in the U.S. Senate. Landrieu was first elected in 1996, when the Democratic Party was still the dominant force in Louisiana. She skated to re-election in 2002 against a weak opponent and again in 2008 on Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTo Build Back Better, improving Black women's health is a must Rahm Emanuel has earned M since leaving Chicago's city hall: report 60 years after the Peace Corps, service still brings Americans together MORE’s coattails. However, by 2014, a demographic realignment had solidified the GOP’s standing as the state’s political kingmaker. Though Landrieu was a reasonably well-liked incumbent who represented oil-rich Louisiana as chair of the vital Senate energy committee, she couldn’t overcome the Republican advantage and lost by 12 points to former-Congressman Bill Cassidy.
Though demographics aren’t something a candidate can change, a well-run campaign can overcome such a disadvantage. Landrieu lost her bid for reelection, but she put up a good fight, running to the right on issues like gun control and environmental issues in an attempt to woo conservative voters. Trump’s campaign has done the opposite, alienating minorities and women with incendiary rhetoric, which is sure to hurt him in November.
2. The Tragedy of a Flawed Candidate:
Even when demographics play in your favor, it is still hard to win an election as a flawed candidate. Donald Trump is the epitome of a candidate with such baggage. Whether it’s his history of bankrupting businesses or his tendency toward self-destructive outbursts, Trump is riddled with flaws that weigh heavily in the minds of voters.
In 2015, Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic MORE was the leading Republican candidate to replace term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal. He enjoyed frontrunner status throughout the race and the backing Louisiana’s GOP elite. However, persistent rumors of a relationship with a New Orleans prostitute, on top of a decade-old scandal involving Deborah Jeanne Palfrey, also known as the “D.C. Madam,” dogged Vitter until Election Day. Ultimately, the baggage killed Vitter’s chances and handed the keys to the Governor’s Mansion to Democrat John Bel Edwards.
Though Donald Trump doesn’t have a well-publicized history with prostitutes weighing over him, he does have a history of disparaging remarks toward women and minorities. Moreover, his baggage seems too heavy to overcome in the minds of many voters, who are unwilling to trust the self-proclaimed “King of Debt” with the American economy or hand over nuclear codes to someone so prone to reckless outbursts.
3. Party Unity Matters:
Donald Trump has torn the Republican Party apart. Trump’s insurgent campaign fueled by antagonism and toxic rhetoric sent the party’s establishment wing running. As it stands today, both of the GOP’s two living former presidents, as well as a solid block of congressional Republicans, have refused to endorse the party’s nominee. The so-called “Never Trump” movement is alive and well, and some prominent Republicans, like HP CEO Meg Whitman, have gone so far as actively supporting Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE.
In 2015, Louisiana saw a similar split among Republicans. Though David Vitter had the backing of the state’s GOP elite, many Republicans found him to be too objectionable as a candidate for governor, including the outgoing Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who sent Vitter’s campaign into a tailspin with a high-profile endorsement of his Democratic opponent, John Bel Edwards.
Just as disunity contributed to Vitter’s defeat in Louisiana, Trump’s failure to unite Republicans represents a major failure on the part of his campaign. It’s hard enough to win over crucial independent voters, and having to worry about your own base defecting doesn’t make that job any easier.
4. Efficiency, Not Stupidity:
Donald Trump has baffled political observers in recent weeks with campaign stops in Connecticut and Minnesota, which under no circumstances will be swinging toward Republicans in 2016, and Mississippi, where he is in no danger of losing. Instead of barnstorming across Ohio and Pennsylvania to court these much-needed swing states, Trump is wasting valuable time and money on a fool’s errand.
In 1987, Louisiana saw a gubernatorial campaign do the same, as Gov. Edwin Edwards, a larger-than-life three-termer, sought reelection. According to longtime political operative Pat Bergeron, Edwards was convinced he could win voters he had never won before and wasted valuable resources courting voters in the northern part of the state, where his opponent, Buddy Roemer, was guaranteed to do well.
One of the hallmarks of a well-run campaign is efficiency. Though Trump’s campaign is operating on a shoestring budget compared to past Republican nominees, his campaign is far from efficient, and wasted resources in non-battleground states is just one example.
5. Fear Doesn’t Win Elections:
And finally, Donald Trump has founded his campaign on fear. Throughout the primaries he warned crowds of anxious Republicans that immigrants from Mexico were rapists and murderers. He also doubled-down with anti-Muslim rhetoric, proposing a complete ban on Muslims from entering the country and floating the idea that American mosques should be closely surveilled by authorities.
These appeals toward fear are nothing new. In 1991, David Duke, a former leader of the KKK and current U.S. Senate candidate, ran for governor in Louisiana using much of the same rhetoric. Duke railed against African-American “encroachment,” claiming that “white America” was under attack. Just like Trump, Duke’s rhetoric propelled him through the primaries. However, he ended up losing the election to a resurgent but beleaguered Edwin Edwards. This is perhaps the best parallel between a failed Louisiana campaign and Donald Trump’s presidential bid.
The contest between Duke and Edwards inspired an interesting catchphrase: “Vote for the crook. It’s important,” which could easily be applied to this year’s presidential election. Louisiana was willing to elect a governor who was deeply mired in a corruption scandal in 1991 if it meant that a firebrand bigot wouldn’t be given the keys to the Governor’s Mansion. I imagine the American people will do the same in 2016.
Noah Bryant Ballard is a Baton Rouge-based political operative and former Statehouse reporter in Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter at @NoahhhBryantBallard.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.