NEW ORLEANS — It would be hard to overstate how much former KKK leader David Duke has attempted to link his 2016 surprise Senate bid to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

He mentioned Trump during a YouTube announcement of his candidacy and spoke repeatedly during an hour-long news conference about how Trump and the Republicans had embraced his vision of America. References to Trump now compete for attention on Duke’s website with anti-Zionist posts, including the theory that Jewish conspirators worked passages from a Michelle Obama speech into Melania Trump’s convention address.

Duke, 66, has never matched the political stardom of his credible run for Louisiana governor in 1991. But in an election where the rise of showboat businessman and reality TV personality Trump has taken the establishment by surprise, Duke obviously feels conditions are ripe for him to make another run.

While Trump eventually disavowed Duke’s support, analysts and observers say Duke can play on similar themes as Trump, such as fears of unchecked immigration, attacks against police, the loss of jobs to free trade and an outsider status. With the rise of social media, Duke feels he has other avenues to reach voters other than mainstream advertising or traditional media.

“What’s interesting to me is that he feels emboldened enough to step into the arena one more time,” said Michael Flamm, an Ohio Wesleyan University professor and author of “In the Heat of the Summer: The New York Riots of 1964 and the War on Crime.”

“I do think the Trump campaign has brought a racial backlash element back into the mainstream,” said Flamm.

Duke, who donned Nazi regalia in college, led a Ku Klux Klan faction until 1980 before moving on to found white-rights organizations. He’s only held one elective government office, narrowly winning a suburban New Orleans state House seat in 1989.

He shocked political observers in 1991 by getting into a runoff for the governor’s race with Democratic former Gov. Edwin Edwards, whose three previous terms had been marked by scandal. Duke’s opponents printed bumper stickers imploring: “Vote for the crook. It’s important.”

Duke got 39 percent of the vote and would never do as well again.

At work at the time, says pollster Michael McKeon, were factors beyond any anti-black vote at the core of Duke’s appeal: economic doldrums following a 1980s crash in the oil economy, broad disaffection with Washington and a fear of “a loss of control.”

Louisiana is again suffering with a weak oil economy. And, McKeon, who predicted Duke’s 1991 success, says anti-government fervor is even higher now.

Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-free trade stance appears to dovetail with Duke’s long-held insistence that white descendants of Europeans in America are the victims of discrimination.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.