Meet John Kennedy

Matt Lewis
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Posted: May 09, 2008 7:23 PM

Earlier today, I had the chance to interview Louisiana state treasurer -- and current U.S. Senate candidate -- John Kennedy(You can listen to the un-edited interview above.  Note:  The sound quality is not terrific).

This was his first major interview with a blogger since becoming a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

As the presumed Republican nominee, Kennedy's campaign to oust incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is viewed as the only realistic chance Republicans have to take a Democratic seat this fall (check out the latest on Ladrieu's ties to Jack Abramoff).

One thing is abundantly clear:  Kennedy isn't running for Congress -- he's running against Congress.  A conservative reformer bent on changing things (not a bad strategy considering the toxic political atmosphere out there), Kennedy hopes to tap into some of anger voters currently have regarding all things Washington. 

And when the topic turns to taking on Washington, Kennedy becomes truly passionate, and his rhetoric is ratcheted up a few notches.

"I think Washington is a ditch ... and you will never change it by sending the same people back," he tells me.

"I don't think you can point to a single ... major problem that keeps moms and dads awake at night, worrying about, that Congress has solved in the last decade in this country," he says.  This, of course, is presumably a shot at Republicans (who have been in control for most of the last ten years).

Though he seems to be willing to at least implicitly criticize Republicans, it should be noted that his criticism is that they haven't actually governed as conservatives. 
"They spend money like it was West Virginia ditch-water," he tells me.

Criticizing the refusal of Congress to fix healthcare, he said: "We ought to have a healthcare system that looks like somebody designed it on purpose." 

His timing might be surprisingly perfect.  Kennedy resides in the one state that seems to be trending Republican (note:  In my estimation, Woody Jenkins loss last week is not a harbinger of things to come -- or at least it's not fair to interpret a low-turnout election as an indicator).  Louisiana has always been a unique state, but this year, the state is even more "out-of-touch" with the national zeitgeist than usual.  The election of up-and-comer Bobby Jindal to governor has been a rare sign of hope for national Republicans (Jindal has endorsed Kennedy). 

And so, at a time when many are fleeing the Republican Party, Kennedy switched from being a Democrat to become a Republican, because (as he says) if you want to be a reformer in Louisiana -- the Republican Party is the only game in town.  As evidence of this, he cites his past effort to pass ethics legislation.  Though he was a Democrat at the time, the only support he received was from Republicans.

Kennedy is impressive inasmuch as he possesses a rare quality that allows him to be simultaneously "down home," likable (which fits Louisiana well), erudite (he did study at Oxford) -- and very well-read. 

As I mentioned, this was Kennedy's first interview with a blogger since becoming a senate candidate.  I'm looking forward to keeping an eye on this race, as it promises to be one of the most exciting in the country.