Moreover, even though the state traditionally gets overlooked by major candidates in presidential elections, the next few months could represent a minor shift in interest by the campaigns for a variety of reasons.
The latest news comes from the Republican side of the big race, with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, both of Florida, arriving in the Bayou State this week to raise money and shore up their Louisiana operations.
Rubio’s events are scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2. starting with a breakfast reception in Lafayette and a luncheon later in New Orleans.
Hosts include notable names like West Feliciana Parish President Kevin Couhig; Philip Ellender, president of Koch Industries’ government affairs division; attorney Hank Perret; and real estate developer Mike Wampold.
Next Monday, Dec. 7, Bush’s campaign will likewise be in New Orleans for a fundraiser hosted by former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush.
Last week, Jeb Bush also announced that Jason Hebert and Scott Hobbs of the Baton Rouge-based Political Firm will serve as his state political advisers. His steering committee includes St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister; state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie; state Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette; and former state Elections Commissioner Suzie Terrell.
Given the large size of the GOP field, Louisiana can expect more attention from the candidates than in the past, said Roger Villere, chairman of the state Republican Party.
“I’ve had a couple of other candidates call and ask recently for names of people to do statewide and regional work,” said Villere. “I think they are looking at Louisiana as part of that SEC Tuesday because whoever comes out of that with a strong position could be moving on.”
Louisiana’s presidential primary is slated for March 5, but the preceding Tuesday, on March 1, several states from the Southeastern Conference, which is a collegiate athletic group, will also host primaries, including but not limited to Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia.
“We may have a leader by then but a lot of campaigns are coupling us all together and viewing us as one group,” said Villere.
That goes for fundraising as well, and Louisiana is not being overlooked in that regard. Jeb Bush’s campaign, for example, has already named three fundraising chairs who are familiar names in Louisiana campaign finance reports, including Joe Canizaro, Boysie Bollinger and James Davison.
On the Democratic side of the developing race, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Louisiana and raised money back in September while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont did the same in July.
Andrew Tuozzolo, a Democratic operative from New Orleans and the managing partner of WIN Partners, expects both will be back in the Bayou State very soon.
Whichever candidate does better in the Deep South, particularly with African-American voters in places like Louisiana, could signal a candidate that’s better positioned to wrap up the party nomination more quickly, Tuozzolo said.
“They had rallies earlier than usual here because Louisiana is beginning to represent an important state in this race,” he added. “If a candidate can win here, then maybe that success can be patterned in other states.”
A name that will not be on Louisiana’s presidential primary ballot is that of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who announced in mid-November that he was abandoning his national campaign.
Jindal has not yet said who he would support for president.
Qualifying for Louisiana’s presidential primary begins on Dec. 2 and ends on Dec. 4.
The final day to registrar to vote in the March 5 primary is on Feb. 3.
The one-week early voting period begins on Feb. 20.