…which is both remarkable and typical.
This was state party chair Karen Carter Peterson’s release after the elections…
“The sweeping victory, called earlier than most pundits expected, confirmed the judgment of the American people that President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their administration have put the country on the road forward. Voters recognized the persistent effort the President has made to, first, pull the country out of the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, and then to do the slow and difficult task of putting our economy back on sound footing that will grow the middle class and open new avenues of opportunity for all Americans.”
LDP Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson said: “The President’s re-election is a victory for all of us who believe that we are all in this together, that we are our best when we advance together, and that we have broader commitments to keep than our own narrow interests.”
“In the wake of this victory, we call on Republicans in the Congress — including those in the Louisiana delegation — to end their obstructionist ways and give President Obama the resources needed for nation-building here at home in this second term.
“We need to fully implement Obamacare, invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and continue the work of building an economy that will last,” Peterson said.
“We also call on Governor Jindal to end his opposition to full participation in Obamacare,” she said. “Louisiana individuals, families and businesses need access to the health insurance exchange and the Medicaid expansion components of that law. Our people need access to that care” and “the Louisiana health-care provider community — from private practices to community hospitals to our public hospital system — need access to the resources that this law provides and that other states will receive the benefit of, regardless of whatever political gains Governor Jindal believes his obstruction gains him.
“The people of this country have spoken and Louisiana needs to join with the rest of the country as President Obama leads us forward over the next four years.”
Not a single word about any of the state races.
And not a single word about the fact that the Democrats’ candidate on the presidential ballot in Louisiana got all of 41 percent, which was only slightly better than the 40 percent he managed in 2008. Those are the two worst performances for a Democrat presidential candidate in this state in memory.
Peterson’s triumphalism is standard boilerplate for party chairs to offer up, so it’s not exactly newsworthy that she’d try to accentuate the positive. But let’s deal in realities for a minute. And the reality of Louisiana’s Democrats is they’re worse off now than they’ve ever been.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room, which is the next major election in this state. Mary Landrieu is up in front of the voters in 2014, and though no Democrats in this state would admit it Landrieu needed Mitt Romney to win Tuesday night. Romney in the White House would have taken a great deal of the edge off this state’s conservatives who want Mary gone, and so far in her charmed political career (she managed to get away with stealing her initial election from Woody Jenkins in 1996 and caught the perfect opponents and circumstances in 2002 and 2008) everything has gone just as it needed to.
But this time, Landrieu is under the gun. With a president in office that 59 percent of Louisiana’s voters voted against, she’s going to have to distance herself from his policies. And everything she does going forward will be under intense scrutiny. The conventional wisdom says her best hope was to have a Republican president in office she could appear bipartisan in supporting some of the time; with Obama in office Mary will struggle to present herself as something other than part of the problem with the state’s voters.
But more than that, Landrieu is going to face the toughest opponent she’s yet faced. Rep. Bill Cassidy hasn’t announced he’s running yet, but everybody knows it’s coming. Cassidy picked up an amazing 79.4 percent of the vote in his re-election race Tuesday, and he’s banked $2 million (as of October 17) without even announcing a Senate run. That’s $400,000 more than Landrieu had on hand at her last disclosure at the end of September.
Landrieu hasn’t been in this kind of situation before. In 2002, she outspent Suzie Terrell $9.7 million to $3.4 million. And in 2008, she outspent John Kennedy $11.3 million to $4.8 million. She’s going to be outspent by Cassidy, or at minimum he’ll be at parity with her since Landrieu is likely to be the GOP’s top target for a Senate pickup nationally in 2014.
Considering she’s never received more than 52 percent of the vote, and that was in 2008 when Barack Obama was on the ballot, a candidate who can outspend her or at least come close is probably more than she can handle.
And if Landrieu goes, the Democrats are done holding statewide office in Louisiana. She’s the last of the Mohicans. Ironic that an Obama re-election would contribute to her demise.
Beyond that, though, this week’s elections showed the Democrats have no bench.
Consider their performance in the congressional races.
Cedric Richmond spent $615,000 on his re-election against a number of unknown candidates, none of whom spent more than $10,000 from what the federal disclosures appear to show, and he managed all of 55 percent of the vote in a 61-percent black district. That kept him out of a runoff, for certain, which would have made him a laughingstock. But when Gary Landrieu, Caleb Trotter, Josue Larose and Dwayne Bailey, none of whom had ever won a race before, can combine to pull 45 percent of the vote against you…you’re weak.
Richmond won’t likely lose re-election in 2014, but he’s reached the terminus of his political destiny. Unless he wants to position himself to run for mayor of New Orleans, that is, though it’s questionable whether that’s a better job than he has now.
Ron Richard was the big star for the Democrats in the other races. He got 21.5 percent of the vote in the 3rd District, which was enough to keep Charles Boustany from winning outright. Boustany and Jeff Landry will now be in a runoff, making the Democrats largely irrelevant in that district for the foreseeable future. Landry faces a tough choice whether to continue, as Boustany getting 45 percent of the vote to his 30 percent is a result several points off what he was hoping for, but either way it’s a major slap in the face to the Democrats that their only “major” challenger had 78.5 percent of the voters reject him.
That was the low figure. The next best Democrat was Vinny Mendoza, who got 21.3 percent of the vote in the 1st District race Steve Scalise won with 66 percent. After Mendoza, they didn’t even run anyone.
And in the Public Service Commission race in Baton Rouge, Forest Wright managed all of 20.5 percent. That Wright managed to finish ahead of the dreadful 11 percent Eric Ponti posted amid Scott Angelle’s putting the race to bed with 57 percent of the vote is a “victory” of sorts.
There is at least a Democrat in a runoff election next month, as John Michael Guidry managed 27 percent of the vote in the Supreme Court race. That was enough for first place in an eight-person free-for-all, with six candidates posting double-figure vote percentages. The other Democrat in the race, Mary Oliver Pierson, scored 14 percent of the vote for third place behind Jeff Hughes, who with 21 percent of the vote will now consolidate the 57 percent of the electorate who pulled the lever for Republicans.
The best news for Louisiana Democrats was that Kip Holden walked away with 60 percent of the vote in the Baton Rouge mayor’s race. But that was anything but a surprise; partisans in Mike Walker’s campaign were hoping to get their candidate into the runoff, where it was at least conceivable that without Obama on the ballot he could win a low-turnout election. But given that white voters in Baton Rouge demand candidates with business experience or at least something of a private-sector resume (Cassidy is a practicing physician, for example), Walker was the least palatable option as an alternative to Holden. He was never going to make the runoff, because he wasn’t even popular among his voting base.
And that leads us to the potential coup de grace for the state’s Dems; namely, there will be a push made at the state legislature next year, our sources say, to reinstitute party primaries in Louisiana’s elections.
The Supreme Court race scared the hell out of many of the power players in state politics, because for a substantial bit of that race it really looked like the five Republicans would cannibalize the vote and allow Guidry and Pierson to sneak into the runoff. While Hughes ultimately cut that Gordian knot by reeling in a $300,000 check from the legacy lawsuit attorney John Carmouche’s Clean Water And Land PAC and surging it onto the airwaves in the last week of the campaign, it still hit home with many that the current system is the only one in which the Dems can win a multi-parish race. With a party primary that ultimately leads to a head-to-head D vs R general election, the Dems are done.
And there is urgency, we’re hearing, to do something about that now. Because when Cassidy steps up to challenge Landrieu, he’ll leave a void in the 6th District which could well result in another race like the one in the Supreme Court. The roster of potential candidates for that race is already building – Ponti’s name has been mentioned, as has Angelle’s. Jenkins’ name has been thrown around, and so has Baton Rouge Metro Council member Joel Boe’s and perennial also-ran candidate Sarah Holliday. Other names will certainly surface as well, and all it takes is two Democrats – say, Holden and outgoing Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard – to enter the race amid a half-dozen Republicans and the 40 percent or so of the electorate that would go Democrat could be apportioned evenly enough to put two of them in the runoff while the six GOP candidates kill each other’s chances off.
Losing that congressional seat when the GOP has what looks like a stranglehold on the House on Capitol Hill isn’t acceptable. And if that possibility forces a move toward traditional party primaries in Louisiana – which ironically Edwin Edwards killed off in a mistaken attempt to strangle the growth of the Louisiana GOP in the 1970’s – it will be a very long time indeed before Peterson can put out a press release touting successes she’s actually responsible for.