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Duck Dynasty Beats Tea Party

A stunning election result tonight in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional district. Political newcomer Vance McAllister beat the snot out of State Sen. Neil Riser in the runoff. Both men are Republicans, and both quite conservative. Riser was understood as having the support of the state GOP establishment, including Gov. Bobby Jindal. Riser was also backed by the state Tea Party. After the primary election, McAllister began to sound more conciliatory, saying that he would work with Democrats. Riser jumped on that, trying to paint him as a squish.

McAllister’s secret weapon: the Robertson family. Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson cut a last-minute ad for McAllister. That has got to have had a huge effect. It was a total McAllister blowout tonight. The Tea Party is nothing compared to the Duck Commander dudes.

UPDATE: It’s hard to know at this point to what extent the Duck Commander family’s support helped McAllister, but it was surely significant, given their popularity here. It’s true that of the two candidates — both very conservative Republicans — McAllister was the one moderates were likely to vote for. Why? Riser doubled down on repealing Obamacare, even after the shutdown failure, but McAllister, who initially wanted to repeal Obamacare, said post-shutdown that it was politically impossible to do it with the Dems controlling the US Senate, so he would focus on repealing reforming it. He also campaigned on being more civil towards political opponents. That surely helped him with more moderate voters.

Tonight’s result was probably also the result of people being pissed off at Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state Republican Party, who were widely perceived as putting their thumbs on the scale to help Riser, a state senator. During the campaign, I heard some conservative voters saying they were voting McAllister as a way to thumb their nose at the establishment.

For all that, I’d still guess that the Duck Commander folks won this thing for McAllister. I could be wrong.

UPDATE: The Hayride, a Louisiana political blog, has detailed analysis, warning that the national narrative that might emerge — a slightly more moderate Republican beats the slightly more conservative candidate — is untrue. In fact, says The Hayride, this likely has more to do with various local political factors, including anger over the perception that Gov. Jindal and his team set this seat up for what they expected to be an easy Riser victory. Excerpt:

Grigsby, Holloway, the Biedenharns and the Davisons, we’re told (in some cases because it’s quite public knowledge), were all on McAllister’s side as a result of the “deal” it’s widely believed was cut between Riser, outgoing congressman Rodney Alexander and Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose political guru Timmy Teepel and his firm OnMessage were part of Riser’s team. Those influential donors and political players were all upset over what they saw as a back-door attempt to “put the fix in” to give Riser Alexander’s seat, with Alexander’s payoff being a cushy job heading up the state veterans’ affairs department. All of the principals in this supposed deal deny that it happened. The fact is, though, those denials – true or not – didn’t convince anybody. And because they didn’t, Riser largely fell victim not to his well-established conservatism, which is what you’re probably going to hear a lot about when the national pundits get hold of these results, but a different kind of numbers game.

Hayride’s analysis is well-informed and highly plausible. Don’t miss it.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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