The GOP's very first caucus this election year was supposed to be down in Louisiana. Its cancellation has spawned allegations that the Bush campaign pulled a fast one.
Sure, Gary Bauer wanted to be shaking hands and kissing babies last week, which is what he was up to in Iowa, but he wanted to be doing it down in Dixie — in Louisiana, to be precise.
That didn’t happen, however, because last month, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster suddenly canceled the state’s Jan. 15 caucus, citing the likelihood of a low voter turnout, which would have been an embarrassment to the state.
When Foster made his announcement, Bauer smelled a rat. Though he is running dead last in the crowded Republican presidential field, according to a recent CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, Bauer had been hoping that conservative Louisiana would offer his sagging campaign a lift.
Furthermore, although only three of the six GOP candidates–Bauer, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Alan Keyes– had planned to compete in Louisiana, the caucus might have had an influence on the outcome in the much more important Iowa caucus on Jan. 24.
Bauer immediately accused rival George W. Bush of playing “inside political games” to get the Louisiana caucuses canceled, thereby denying Bauer a potential platform for his ultra-conservative Christian beliefs.
“In my view, that’s the worst of all worlds: ‘Let’s get real tough when it comes to playing inside political games, but let’s fail when we give a governing vision to people,’” Bauer said, in an obvious swipe at the front-runner. Bauer added that the caucuses were canceled because the governor of Louisiana wanted them canceled, and “the governor of Louisiana is firmly in the governor’s [Bush's] camp.”
For its part, the Bush campaign denied any involvement in the decision.
Foster, who indeed is a strong Bush supporter, has openly complained that the state’s party is controlled by the Christian right.
Meanwhile, by canceling its caucus, Louisiana removed the best chance for voters in the deep South to have some influence over the presidential race before Super Tuesday, March 14, when most of the primaries in the region will be held.
Mike Francis, Louisiana’s state Republican chairman, who backed the idea of a January caucus, says what has happened is bad for the region. “I think there is no early voice in the South to select a Republican nominee from a conservative group,” says Francis. “We were on the right track and doing something for the South.”
Like Bauer, Francis blames Bush for hurting the caucus movement when he “wanted to follow the old traditional route through Iowa. We were dealing with prominent Republicans and it’s hard to hold the line against those forces.”
Francis vows it will be different next time, and that in 2004, Bush won’t stand a chance of influencing a Louisiana caucus, even if he is the president. “Democracy didn’t have its will of the way in this,” says Francis, who plans on leading a caucus crusade in the state during the next four years. “We got beat by the biggest and best in America. I don’t like it — at all.”
But Francis may be fighting an uphill battle. Even if the Louisiana GOP eventually agrees to try an early caucus again, how many politicians are going to take the time and money to campaign in a state that may — at the last minute — cancel its invitation?
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas writer. More Suzi Parker.
More Related Stories
- From global warming to fluoride: Why do people deny science?
- What does it really feel like to fall out of a building?
- How Dan Savage lost it
- Diet soda rots your teeth "like meth and cocaine"
- Is the Environmental Defense Fund ruining environmentalism?
- Nancy Jo Sales on L.A. celeb robbers: "The Bling Ring kids were depressed"
- “Arrested Development,” hurry up and get here so you can stop being so annoying
- Top 5 investigative videos of the week: "Winning" Afghanistan
- Will U.S. amphibians become endangered species?
- Must-do's: What we like this week
- Josh Ritter makes his "Blood on the Tracks"
- I don't hate millennials anymore!
- Illinois' fracking and coal rush is a national crisis
- Jester clowns Westboro Baptist Church
- GOP: Party of crybabies
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Twitter talks back: Obama's missed salute
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11