Landrieu The Longshot

Residents of Louisiana can expect another month of nonstop political ads:

Landrieu officials say they believe she can win given her history of consolidating support and beating her opponents in runoffs — in 1996 she was down by 11 points in the general election and went on to win by 1 point. In 2002, she was down by three points in the general election and won the runoff by 3 points. But the national political headwinds in this election could hurt her. President Barack Obama and his signature health care law remain largely highly in the state. Landrieu will have to bridge the racial divide to gin up support among whites, who have been unenthusiastic about her reelection bid, and rally a significant number of black voters to win.

Republican operatives have long thought their best chance at ousting Landrieu was through a runoff. A recent NBC/Marist poll showed that in a head-to-head match up Cassidy would get 50 percent of the vote while Landrieu is expected to draw just 45 to 46 percent.

Harry Enten doesn’t like Landrieu’s chances:

The problem for Landrieu is that Louisiana’s political environment in 2014 doesn’t look at all like it did in 2002. The state was only about 8 percentage points more Republican than the country in the 2000 presidential election. In the 2012 presidential election, it was about 21 percentage points more Republican than the nation. Moreover, the combined Democratic candidates’ vote in the 2002 Senate election in Louisiana was 47.9 percent versus 50.6 percent for the Republicans. In other words, it was a much closer primary than what occurred on Tuesday. If Landrieu is able to gain 3.8 percentage points in December, like she did in 2002, she’d still only take 47.3 percent of the vote in the runoff.

No matter how you look at it, Landrieu is in deep trouble in a month.

Nicholas Lemann notes that after yesterday’s elections, Landrieu is the only Democratic senator remaining in the Deep South. He mulls over this state of affairs:

To attract white votes, which winning statewide office necessarily entailed, a Democrat required either Olympic-level political skill (think of Bill Clinton in Arkansas) or the trust that comes from bearing a famous political-family name (think of Al Gore in Tennessee, or, almost, Michelle Nunn in Georgia, or, for that matter, Landrieu) or a powerful orientation toward delivering for the folks back home mixed with a partial disavowal of the national Democratic Party. Landrieu had all three in some measure, and still perceived every campaign as a political near-death experience.

Political realities can and do change. Formerly Confederate states such as Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida are regularly capable of casting their electoral votes for Democratic Presidential nominees, and it’s not impossible that Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia might, as well. Even Louisiana went Democratic in the 1996 Presidential election. Those who care about how this goes in coming years should take note, though: if there is a future for Southern Democrats running statewide, it will belong to people who don’t get angry on television and who don’t yell at Republican Presidents or applaud Democratic ones. Republican candidates can get away with all of that; Democrats can’t.