As the Cajun primary in south Louisiana rages on, observers continue to describe the race between Congressmen Jeff Landry and Congressman Charles Boustany as a typical Tea Party versus establishment Republican race. But it isn’t.
Although Landry is allied with the Tea Party, Boustany is far from an “establishment” Republican when it comes to national security issues—and especially to the question of Israel. Boustany’s record on Israel is far outside the mainstream. He's one of only two Republicans to have ever been endorsed by J Street, the left-wing advocacy group that bills itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace” (with far more emphasis on the latter than the former). In 2009, he attended J Street’s first annual conference, even after Israeli ambassador Michael Oren boycotted it, citing policies from the organization “that may impair the interests of Israel.” Boustany eventually severed all connections with the group, after discovering, he says, that “they were dishonest with me about where their funding came from”—namely, the big dollars from billionaire George Soros.
J Street maintains that Boustany was “with them from the beginning,” and that the party “forced” the resignation of this “very brave” congressman.” “When he accepted that endorsement he aligned himself with their beliefs,” one pro-Israel activist notes. “Severing ties with J Street because of where their funding comes from isn’t the same as severing ties because of what they believe.” Noah Pollak, the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, points out that "there’s no political benefit to him" for having aligned himself with J Street, “so we should take him at his word that this is important to him.”
Boustany’s stance on Israel is unlikely to be popular with the voters in the very conservative Third Congressional District, whose Republicans overwhelmingly supported Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney in March, and who now, with a general election pitting two Republican members against each other because of redistricting, have a chance to elect someone whose foreign policy beliefs are more in line with their own. In August, Landry told me, “I stand by Israel 100 percent.”
And they might do just that. As of today, all of the mainstream Republican County (Parish) Committees who have endorsed a candidate for Congress in the member versus member race have abandoned Boustany, even though most have been his constituents for years, and endorsed Jeff Landry. Although Boustany’s got a large fundraising edge, he’s only had to run safe races before, and Landry has been having a very good couple of weeks. He’s been endorsed by the Family Research Council, the Tea Party of Louisiana; Freedom Works, Citizens United, and the Tea Party Nation. Mitt Romney recently named Landry to his “National Catholic Coalition Committee.”
Romney must believe Landry has a chance to win. And it looks like he does.