Monday, September 29, 2008

Landrieu a Katrina Victim?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 3:31 PM

??The PBS news division weighed in with a re-election analysis of Louisiana senior U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, and it wasn’t a pretty picture for the Democrat. In a story update posted to the site of NewsHour with Jim Lehrer last week, the writer suggests that the 2005 storm season uprooted the Bayou State’s political structure and will continue wreaking havoc during the ongoing fall elections.

 “Demographic changes and a steady march to the right by the post-Katrina electorate in Louisiana” spell trouble for Landrieu, according to the PBS story. Cobbled together using several local news sources, the story wrangled quotes from two cornerstones of Louisiana politics to drive its point home:

??• “Politically, we’re starting to look a lot more like Mississippi and Alabama,” T. Wayne Parent, a professor of political science at Louisiana State University and author of Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics, told NPR. “We used to pattern pretty well with Ohio or New Jersey in survey research,” Parent said. “But now we pattern a little closer to our Southern states to the east.”

??• Landrieu’s margins of victory in 1996 and 2002 came from Orleans Parish, where voter numbers have dropped since Hurricane Katrina, according to The Times-Picayune. “The storm’s destruction caused severe damage to many Democratic-leaning neighborhoods. Many of those residents eventually relocated, mostly outside of Louisiana. In total, about 50,000 registered Democrats left New Orleans since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” John Maginnis, who writes the newsletter LaPolitics, told NPR.

??Actually, it’s not certain that most black voters who fled Katrina relocated out of state. According to local demographer Greg Rigamer of GCR & Associates, many black voters who fled Katrina have relocated elsewhere in Louisiana. Moreover, Rigamer says, total statewide black voter registration today — both in raw numbers and in percentage of the statewide registration — is very close to what it was in 2002, the year in which Landrieu beat Republican challenger Suzy Terrell by 42,000 votes. Rigamer says those numbers give Landrieu an excellent chance of winning re-election.

??GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy, Landrieu’s opponent, manages to land a few sentences in the NPR piece, but the story is mostly a rehash of the challenges posed to Landrieu. Overall, it offers a reminder of just how regionalized this race is going to become in the next few weeks. — Alford and DuBos

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