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Finally, Relevance 

It's ironic that the leadership of Louisiana's Republican Party designed the state's GOP presidential primary to be little more than a beauty contest, while their counterparts in the Democratic Party decided to apportion at least some of their nominating convention delegates according to the outcome of the Feb. 9 primary. The Republican mullahs were hoping for a brokered convention at which the state's officially "uncommitted" delegation could wheel and deal — and perhaps play a pivotal role in choosing the next GOP nominee — but now it appears the Democrats are the ones who may hold a brokered convention.

U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona pretty much has a lock on the Republican nomination, while Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are locked in a tight battle that may not be resolved until May or June — or later.

The silver lining for both state parties is the fact that the Louisiana primaries meant anything at all. Three weeks ago, most thought they wouldn't rate so much as an asterisk.

Many pundits expected one of the Democrats to score a knockout punch on Super Tuesday (known locally as Mardi Gras), but that didn't happen. When the race for the Democratic nomination suddenly became a race, there was Louisiana — one of only four states holding either caucuses or a primary on Feb. 9, just four days after Super Tuesday. The other states were Kansas, where Republicans held a primary; Nebraska, where Democrats caucused; and Washington, where both parties caucused. We were the only state in which both parties held primaries.

That made Louisiana suddenly relevant, and the campaigns responded — at least on the Democratic side. Obama and former President Bill Clinton paid visits. Obama's victory over Hillary Clinton in the Louisiana Democratic primary, while not exactly a surprise, added to the Illinois senator's momentum and helped put him in the lead in most delegate counts as of late last week.

On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's narrow win over McCain made national headlines even if it didn't garner Huckabee a single delegate. (Party rules required a candidate to get a majority of the primary vote to get a slate of committed delegates. Huckabee won a plurality of the vote, not a majority.) Then again, Huckabee didn't campaign in Louisiana. His victory over McCain was seen as a shot across McCain's bow from the Religious Right, which has a firm grip on the GOP state party machinery (not to mention the hearts and minds of a lot of Republican voters).

Meanwhile, all last week, Republican blogs and Web sites were atwitter about Rush Limbaugh's suggestion that Gov. Bobby Jindal might make a good running mate for McCain. Jindal is a national darling of the Religious Right, and McCain obviously needs to mend fences on that flank. Besides, Jindal is, well, ethnic and young.

Had he been governor for a full term already, and perhaps just a few years older, Jindal might be a serious contender for a spot on the GOP ticket. But, seeing how he rarely completes a full term in any of his public jobs — and this one would set a record for brevity, even by Jindal standards — his chances of making the cut seem pretty remote.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: If Jindal were to be tapped as McCain's running mate, and if McCain were to win the election, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu would become the new governor of Louisiana upon Jindal's inauguration as vice president.

In the end, Louisiana may remain as confounding as hell, but nobody can say we don't matter any more.

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