Stephanie Grace: Edwards could be a hoot as candidate

BY STEPHANIE GRACE

sgrace@theadvocate.com

Edwin Edwards running for Congress? Now there’s an idea for a reality show.

Forget “The Governor’s Wife,” the mercifully short-lived A&E series about the formerly imprisoned pol’s third stab at wedded bliss, this time with a woman young enough to be one of his own kids’ kid. It turned out to be a phony, uncomfortable mess, and the legendarily salty scoundrel at its core came off as little more than an aging, befuddled bore.

But the four-term governor out of prison and back in the arena, in the era of viral videos and big-money Super PACS, no less? OK, I’m listening.

Edwards may or may not have firmly proclaimed that he plans to run for the 6th District Congressional seat that U.S. Senate candidate Bill Cassidy is vacating, depending on who is asked. Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt gleefully wrote that Edwards was all in Wednesday, under the headline “Ex-Con Ex-Governor Running for Congress.” But then Edwards himself said he was only mulling the idea — and added that, if he were to announce, he would make a much bigger and better show of it.

The truth is that he might not be serious at all. Would anyone be surprised to find he’s just messing with us?

Still, imagine the possibilities. Edwards has already proven he can set Twitter, well, atwitter by even floating the possibility of a comeback, not just in Louisiana but among Washington journalists who can smell a colorful yarn from 1,000 miles away. For a guy who left office two decades ago and spent the dawn of the social media age behind bars, he’s got the modern news media landscape down.

Recent experience notwithstanding, Edwards, in his natural environment, still might be a hoot. There’s no doubt that his penchant for witty but off-color innuendos — you know, the ones about how you’re only as old as the woman you feel and about how he not only doesn’t need Viagra but is a donor — would fit right into today’s coarse culture.

And an Edwards candidacy could be more than just amusing. It would also be instructive.

Edwards thrived in the time of unregulated campaign cash, before the state adopted contribution limits and many disclosure requirements. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has significantly loosened similar rules for federal-level campaigns in recent years, he’d find himself on sadly familiar terrain in 2014. He may well have been simply taking a swipe at U.S. Sen. David Vitter when he said he was researching how to put together his own Super PAC. (Vitter made his reputation in the Louisiana Legislature as a reformer and Edwards critic but is now trying to get the $100,000 limit on individual donations overturned in advance of his looming gubernatorial bid). But can you imagine a better tour guide to help viewers explore the shadowy world of the innocuous-sounding groups that fund all those vicious attack ads on TV?

That’s the upside to an Edwards candidacy.

The downside is that elections such as these are not just fun and games — not with major decisions like the future of the National Flood Insurance Program in Congress’s hands. Not with Louisiana’s reputation for illicit politics, most recently reinforced by the fresh guilty verdict against New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, still a huge challenge, and an embarrassment.

The polls might be temporarily promising, even though Edwards is a Democrat in a Republican district, but in the end, voters may be no more likely than the cable executives who made the last bad bet to give him another shot.

A serious Edwards campaign, in fact, could be a real downer. But a campaign staged for our entertainment? Who knows? It could be just the ticket.

Stephanie Grace can be contacted at sgrace@theadvocate.com.