Vice President-Elect gives pitch for Kennedy on final day of early voting
Story by Nick Reimann
Although polls show Republican John Kennedy with a strong lead over Democrat Foster Campbell in the Senate runoff, Republicans aren’t taking any chances.
Hundreds of people gathered in a hangar at Lakefront Airport on Dec. 3 to hear a list of Republican heavy hitters, headlined by Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, rally support for State Treasurer and Senate candidate John Kennedy on the final day for early voting.
“I stand before you today to say that we need John Kennedy in the U.S. Senate—we really do,” Pence said. “You’re going to put an exclamation point on 2016.”
A Kennedy win would put the Republican majority in the Senate at 52-48. This is the last seat that has not yet been decided from the November election.
Though the rally was officially to support Kennedy, the candidate himself didn’t have much to say, primarily serving as Mike Pence’s introduction.
“What he has done as governor [of Indiana] is nothing short of extraordinary,” Kennedy said. “He orchestrated the largest tax cut in the history of the state.”
Other speakers at the rally included Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Senator Bill Cassidy, Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, U.S. representative Garret Graves, and outgoing U.S. Representative John Fleming, one of Kennedy’s primary rivals. Fleming gave a short speech, making no mention of his previous role in the race, instead touting traditional conservative positions like the rest of the speakers.
For Pence, this was the first rally he was a part of since the presidential election. Lakefront Airport also served as the site of Donald Trump’s rally prior to the Louisiana primary in March, well before the time Trump had secured the nomination and named Pence as his running mate.
That rally was marked by numerous protests and disruptions, which were not an issue this time. There was one small protest group across from the venue, though, holding signs such as “Pence = Hitler on decaf” and chanting: “No Pence, No KKK, no fascist USA.”
Trump also spoke for over an hour that day, while Pence’s speech only lasted about 20 minutes, but all it took was those 20 minutes for Donald Trump to come up with two tweets about the event.
Around the same time Pence took to the stage, Trump tweeted: “State Treasurer John Kennedy is my choice for US Senator from Louisiana. Early voting today; election next Saturday.”
He followed that up with another tweet, saying in part: “John will be a tremendous help to us in Washington.”
With this being the final day of early voting, and election day itself being held on Saturday (Dec. 10), it would take a massive surprise at this point for Kennedy to lose, with the most recent poll showing him holding a 52-38 lead percentage-wise.
Still, Republicans don’t want to take the seat for granted. Despite being a red state, Louisiana has shown that it is still willing to elect a Democrat at statewide level, at least in certain circumstances. Just last year, Democrat John Bel Edwards defeated Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter to become Governor. Following his loss, Vitter announced that he would not be seeking re-election to the Senate, allowing for the open seat being decided now.
Steve Scalise wants to make sure there isn’t a repeat.
“Liberals have not given up,” Scalise said. “There’s only one race left and it’s next week.”
Speakers also embraced a theme of “friends don’t let friends vote alone,” with Bill Cassidy telling the crowd to bring ten friends with them to vote, unless they were “voting for the other guy.”
Election day for the Senate runoff takes place on Saturday, Dec. 10.