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Painful results for Democrats (Louisiana)
2theadvocate.com ^ | 01/04/05

Posted on 01/04/2005 4:06:30 AM PST by Ellesu

The 2004 election cycle ended with the December runoffs in Louisiana, a mixed result for the major parties. The Democrats narrowly picked up the 3rd District, electing Charlie Melancon over Billy Tauzin III, son of the incumbent Republican. But the Republicans picked up the 7th District in southwest Louisiana, with physician Charles Boustany defeating state Sen. Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles.

There had never been a Republican U.S. senator from Louisiana elected by popular vote. That also changed this year, as U.S. Rep. David Vitter of Metairie won promotion to the Senate in the November primary election.

What does it take to make a Democrat competitive in Louisiana in a presidential election? Not even relatives in France, nor a highly publicized crawfish lunch in New Orleans, helped Democratic nominee John F. Kerry. By August, the national campaign was out of the state, and essentially had wasted its time and money for months before.

There was something of a case made for trying to put Louisiana in play for the challenger. President Clinton carried the state twice, and Al Gore lost it by a relatively narrow margin for a Deep South state in 2000. Two statewide elections -- 2002, when U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was re-elected, and 2003, when Gov. Kathleen Blanco was elected -- were narrow wins for Democrats.

The nation is divided into "red" and "blue" states by the analysts. But the 57 percent margin for President Bush makes it difficult to argue that Louisiana, long considered one of the few Deep South venues hospitable to the Democrats, is even a pink state now.

And that's not counting Vitter.

The very conservative congressman from suburban New Orleans was thought by much of the smart money to be beatable when -- not if -- one of the two leading Democrats forced him into a December runoff for the seat of retiring Democratic power John Breaux. But this time, the open primary system failed the Democrats, with Vitter winning outright at 51 percent.

It was something the Democrats didn't see coming until far too late. Vitter, 43, a Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar, came across as not only smart but personable on television -- something that his detractors in state politics believed impossible.

Vitter united the fractious GOP, something else politicians had not thought possible. No other serious Republican even entered the race. Former Gov. Mike Foster, who once wouldn't have cast a line to rescue a drowning Vitter, headed sportsmen for guess who.

Breaux, the dominant political figure in the state and respected across party lines, stumped the state for conservative Democrat Rep. Chris John of Crowley, who didn't manage 30 percent.

An "aberration," as Democrats claim? After all, they said, but for Bush's coattails, Vitter would have been forced into a runoff. And then, a coalition of black voters and moderate Acadiana white voters would have made for a winnable Democratic race, as last year.

Doubtful, particularly in light of how far down the party has gone in other races.

One congressman in north Louisiana sneakily switched from Democrat to Republican to avoid a challenge, but the GOP won the other seats fair and square. The delegation is now 6-3 for the GOP.

Vitter's seat was taken by another Rhodes scholar, 2003 gubernatorial runner-up Bobby Jindal, 33, a former Bush administration official and the son of Indian immigrants. The first Indian-American elected to Congress since the 1960s, he is another rising GOP star.

In two races, Democrats were lucky. A brutal split between Republican primary candidates left the 31-year-old son of retiring House power Billy Tauzin vulnerable to Melancon, who won the runoff by 500 votes.

In East Baton Rouge Rouge Parish, a majority-white electorate thumpingly elected a Democrat as its first black mayor-president. That owed more to the woes of the Republican incumbent than his party, which carried the parish for Bush.

All this has resulted in understandable soul-searching among Democrats.

Party Chairman Mike Skinner of Lafayette, a lawyer and former U.S. attorney, said he planned to step down after the election anyway, because of the demands on his time. But there's no doubt that many in the party would have sought a change, if only for form's sake, after such a series of losses.

Landrieu has to look anxiously at her prospects for a third term in the 2008 election; she and Vitter have made a show of being on speaking terms as colleagues, and we hope that lasts.

But the aggressive postelection agenda of Bush makes it somewhat more difficult for Landrieu to pursue the conservative Democratic course of Breaux. The president is pushing controversial proposals and putting Senate Democrats on the hot seat by sending up many conservative nominees for federal courts.

Blanco argues that the Democrats must tack to the center in politics if they are to be competitive again in the state. That might be so, and Clinton made his way to the presidency by pursuing that agenda. But it should not be forgotten that the Clinton agenda was a very controversial one in the national party, pushing it close to civil war at times.

For the moment, the GOP tide looks like a trend in Louisiana and not an aberration.


TOPICS: Editorial; Government; US: Louisiana
KEYWORDS: jindal; louisiana; marylandrieu; vitter
Wake-up Louisiana voters. Get Landrieu out of there!
1 posted on 01/04/2005 4:06:30 AM PST by Ellesu
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To: Ellesu

Louisiana is really three different states - Northern/Southeastern Louisiana, Southwestern Louisiana (Geaux Cajuns), and the New Orleans metro area. The law is based on Napoleon code and there are no counties (only "Church" parishes). It's a very complex and unique southern state.


2 posted on 01/04/2005 4:24:25 AM PST by kipita (Rebel the proletariat response to Aristocracy and Exploitation.)
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To: Ellesu

No mention of Bobby Jindal. I think he got like 3/4 of the vote, avoiding a run off easily.


3 posted on 01/04/2005 4:45:21 AM PST by BBell
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To: BBell

"Vitter's seat was taken by another Rhodes scholar, 2003 gubernatorial runner-up Bobby Jindal, 33, a former Bush administration official and the son of Indian immigrants. The first Indian-American elected to Congress since the 1960s, he is another rising GOP star."

Oh, never mind!


4 posted on 01/04/2005 4:48:13 AM PST by BBell
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To: Ellesu

"Vitter's seat was taken by another Rhodes scholar, 2003 gubernatorial runner-up Bobby Jindal, 33, a former Bush administration official and the son of Indian immigrants. The first Indian-American elected to Congress since the 1960s, he is another rising GOP star."

Oh, Never mind!


5 posted on 01/04/2005 4:49:11 AM PST by BBell
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To: Ellesu

I heard, and please correct me if I'm wrong, Landrieu won because of a "last minute" appearace by Bubba, getting the black voters out and Landrieu giving up her seat on the Armed Services Committee to Shrill. I think if the current trend continues, Landrieu's days are numbered. Louisiana is my new "favorite" place to visit and I hope in my lifetime it will be solidly Republican.


6 posted on 01/04/2005 4:53:58 AM PST by Dawgreg (Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.)
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