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The Encroachment of Presidential Elections

What happens when two major elections, each set for a separate year, collide in the same year? If ever there is a Big Bang, Louisiana will be hearing it.

These two elections (one for Governor; the other for President) have been held without once causing conflict with the other; the actual voting dates, after all, were in Novembers a year apart. This year, however, we saw the beginning of what is likely a new trend.

Case in point: Tues., Nov. 10. On that night there was a statewide-televised debate between the two runoff gubernatorial candidates. On the same evening there was a nationally televised debate between the Republican hopefuls for President. It never used to happen that the quest for the Presidency clashed with the chase for the Louisiana Governor’s Office.

In days of yore, voters heard very little about the Presidential election until early in election year. Usually the New Hampshire primary was the clarion call, followed soon by the Iowa caucus. “Oh, this is election year,” voters would realize. “I wonder who is running?”

This year, however, there were party debates far in advance of New Hampshire; which, by the time it happens, might be diminished by voter fatigue and will still be seven months before the actual election.

A major reason why so much attention is being paid to the Presidential balloting is cable TV. Because of cable, we are exposed to talking heads analyzing the news every day throughout the year. The heads need something to talk about and elections provide good fodder. Campaigns are the sports of hard news, providing winners and losers, and speculation about who will be which. Political gab helps fill those long, dreary summer days when, this year at least, not even hurricanes provided much competition for attention.

Meanwhile, back in Louisiana the show went on. The issues were important, but there was not the star power of national candidates. Nor was there the sense of power. When speaking of the Presidency, practically everything is possible. When speaking of a Governorship – well, there are limits.

Presidential election encroachment is not necessarily a bad thing; it does democratize the process by giving voters ample occasions to analyze the contenders. It is a far cry from old days when political bosses would hand-pick candidates, sometime at the last minute during political conventions. We just hope that in future years the federal campaigns do not totally trump the state elections for voter interest.

Who knows, maybe one day a Louisiana Governor will become President.



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