Louisiana Primary Results – what do they mean for November ?

When we discussed the election results, we briefly examined the vote that David Vitter and Charlie Melancon received overall and in each parish. There are a couple more things we wanted to mention regarding Vitter and Melancon’s performance:

(1) While Senator Vitter received a near unanimous 88% of the Republican primary vote, we did notice that with Republican voters in Orleans Parish and in Ward 1 of East Baton Rouge Parish (basically, the city of Baton Rouge and not its suburbs), Vitter received a substantial but slightly reduced 80% of the vote;

(2) The real partisan defections were in the Democratic primary. Since Democrats and Independents can vote in this primary, you’re basically getting not just a snapshot of 74% of the electorate, but a snapshot of party regulars/chronic voters. In looking at the detail, Charlie Melancon can’t (or shouldn’t) be happy at the breakdown of his 71% of the Democratic/Indpendent vote:

  1. In precincts that are 80% or more black, Melancon received 81% of the vote. This is a respectable percentage of the vote, but one would have hoped that as the presumptive party nominee, he would have received support in the 90% range. This signifies a relatively low level of enthusiasm that blacks have towards his candidacy;
  2. In precincts that are 80% or more white, Melancon received 61% of the vote. This is not a healthy percentage for the presumptive nominee to get, especially when you consider these are the most engaged voters. This means one of two things: (1) white Democrats aren’t enthusiastic about his candidacy, or (2) the independents who have fled the Democratic party since “cap and trade” legislation passed the House voiced their disapproval at the ballot box in the Senate primary Saturday night;
  3. If you were to examine the Melancon vote further in the white precincts, you would see even more disturbing patterns for him. In his own 3rd Congressional District, he received 66% of the white vote. This is not an unambiguous endorsement of a six year incumbent seeking a promotion to the Senate;
  4. If you were to look at white voters in Orleans and East Baton Rouge Parish (in other words, the places where you have a significant population of “garden district” liberals, Melancon got 77% of the white vote. This is to be expected, because in our theory of the “Obama plunge”, “base vote Democrats” are not abandoning the Democratic party at the same rate that Independents are;
  5. Once you’ve taken away the 3rd Congressional district and the “garden district” areas, you find that in the rest of Louisiana, Melancon received an anemic 57% of the white vote against two unknown opponents.

Bottom line: based on our examination of the Democratic and Republican primary vote, we see that (1) Melancon will receive near unanimous black support, but without an especially energized turnout, (2) Vitter will suffer some erosion in his support in more urban white neighborhoods in East Baton Rouge and Orleans Parish, and (3) Melancon is dead in the water in suburban and rural parishes. Essentially, his base is the “Obama coalition” of blacks and white liberals that enabled Obama 40% of the vote against John McCain in the 2008 Presidential election – one of his weakest showings in all of America.

John is a political consultant and blogger with JMC Enterprises with expertise in poll sample development and analysis, development of targeted voter files for phone canvassing or mail outs, campaign strategy and demographic consulting, among other things. See his site at WinWithJMC.com for more information.

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