Registration statistics are in for eligibility to vote on Nov. 4, and early voting has concluded. Do they tell us whether incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has trailed in the last 11 polls heads-up to challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy but who has won three close elections for the office, could do it again?
Both sides of the Senate contest claim there’s something good about the registration numbers. Republicans point to the fact that their numbers keep growing, although not as fast as no-party/other-party voters, as Democrats’ totals continue in free-fall, while Democrats point that among new registrations since July about half of all new registrants are black, who historically vote overwhelmingly Democrat. Heading in to the election, as a whole registered voters in Louisiana proportionally are 63.9 percent white, 31.5 percent black, and 4.6 percent others, while they are 47.1 percent Democrats, 27.5 percent Republicans, and 25.4 percent no-party/other.
Republicans rightly celebrate their increases at the expense of Democrats. With 171,000 fewer of the latter than in 2008, of which 165,000 were white with blacks increasing about 8,000, using a rule of thumb that two-thirds of all white Democrats voted for the incumbent and now running for reelection Democrat Landrieu as did all blacks, she has lost a base of 102,000 voters from when she had a winning margin of 121,000 – in an election that was higher-stimulus for her supporters then than now. Keep in mind also that registration is not the same as self-identification, and as far as that what was a 10-point advantage for Democrats in 2008 is now down to four, among all voters. Further, 45 percent identify as conservatives, as opposed to just 17 percent liberals. Finally, she appears to have only 25 percent of the white vote at present.
Democrats can take some solace that from within an electorate that overall is two-to-one white-to-black that a slim majority of new registrants were black – but only a small amount of solace. It’s one thing to register a voter; it’s another to make him vote, and as it appears a significant proportion of the new black registrants opted to choose neither major party, these individuals are much less likely to turn up at the polls even a couple of months after registration. Any additional bump they get solely from disproportionately increased registration will add a few thousand votes at best, and, as far as Nov. 4 is concerned, are very unlikely to hand her a win in a contest where no heads-up poll with main rival Republican Cassidy ever has shown her with a majority, and most, particularly recent ones, show her far below it.
Early voting shows little to cheer about for Landrieu as well. Given that the dynamics of the contest point to greater enthusiasm (by 10 percentage points) with certainty to vote among Republicans than for Democrats, these numbers can give some clue as to whether this will play out. Be aware that interpreting early voting numbers is difficult, for there’s no way of knowing if totals reflect underlying enthusiasm or just wanting to get voting over with, where the former tells us about the dynamics of voting behavior that reflect on and replicate Nov. 4 behavior but the latter only displaces votes from Nov. 4 and does not serve as a precursor to it.
A potential good sign for Landrieu could be having a higher proportion of Democrats and blacks turn out in early voting than their proportions in the registered population. Yet even as Democrats have a 7:4 advantage over Republicans in registration, they participated in early voting at only a bit over a 3:2 ratio. Things ended slightly better as far as the proportion of blacks voting early was slightly higher than the 1:2 ratio with whites. Assuming these serve as a precursor, given the demographic, attitudinal, and polling data, neither candidate seems to have drawn an advantage here.
Which is bad news for Landrieu. The trend of opinion polls is going in the wrong direction for her and she needs something to disrupt that, favorably for her. Both registration and early voting statistics, complemented by the fact that at her present levels of white support and black registrations are not enough to get her victory either now or in a runoff, show nothing of the sort, and, as has been the case for months now, she continues to be the underdog to Cassidy.