Boustany well-positioned to defeat Landry in final election of 2012

December 8, 2012

The 2012 election cycle will officially come to an end in southwestern Louisiana later Saturday. 

Rep. Charles Boustany (R) is the front-runner to defeat fellow Republican Rep. Jeff Landry in a 3rd District runoff election sparked by a new congressional map that pitted the fourth-term congressman against a freshman. 


Screenshot from Boustany TV ad (The Washington Post)

In some ways, the runoff election is a fitting ending to the cycle. The contest has been filled with themes that surfaced time and again in 2012: It’s a member-vs.-member race triggered by redistricting, conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) weighed in, and the establishment-vs.-tea party card has been played.

First, let’s look at how we got to this point.

On Election Day, Boustany won 45 percent of the vote in the all-party primary. Landry finished second with 30 percent, and Boustany’s inability to cross the 50 percent threshold triggered a runoff between the two Republicans.

Following the decennial census, Louisiana was forced to shed one congressional district. The redistricting process pitted Boustany, in his fourth term, against Landry, a freshman. 

Most signs point to a Boustany win in the runoff. In late November, Boustany released an internal poll showing him with a commanding 56 percent to 29 percent lead over Landry. Boustany also holds a built-in name recognition advantage because the district contains more of his constituents than Landry’s. Finally, Boustany has raised more money.

It’s not just Republicans who are voting in the runoff. Democrats, too, can cast ballots, a factor that would appear to favor Boustany. What’s more, the Democrat who finished with the most votes on Nov. 6 endorsed Boustany after the election.

Conservatives who have rallied behind Landry have sought to pitch the contest as a choice between a true conservative and a Republican beholden to the Washington establishment.

Landry has the support of the conservative group FreedomWorks and DeMint, and he has hit Boustany for voting for the 2011 Budget Control Act, which raised the debt ceiling.

Boustany, though, has refused to cede the conservative high ground, underscoring his fight against President Obama's health-care law from his position on the House Ways and Means Committee and his push to expand domestic energy production. 

According to the National Journal’s 2011 vote ratings, Landry finished in a tie as the 36th most conservative member of the House, while Boustany ranked tied for 99th most conservative. (The Daily Advertiser newspaper in Lafayette has an excellent rundown of where the two have come down on key votes on the 112th Congress.)

As the Hotline notes, the Boustany-Landry race bears a resemblance to other Republican member-vs.-member showdowns in 2012. The races between Reps. Don Manzullo and Adam Kinzinger in Illinois, Sandy Adams and John Mica in Florida and David Schweikert and Ben Quayle in Arizona each featured one member trying to claim the conservative/outsider mantle over another with closer perceived ties to House GOP leadership. 

One last thing to keep an eye on is turnout. Low turnout typically favors the underdog, who in this case is Landry. That said, given how many of Boustany’s constituents reside in the new 3rd District, low turnout might not hurt him as badly. It would be difficult to imagine a high turnout for a post-Election Day runoff on a Saturday in December. But stranger things have happened in politics.

Stay tuned to the Fix tonight, where we’ll have results for you once the race has been called.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Aaron Blake · December 8, 2012