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Disruption puts Jefferson in reelection driver's seat

As previously discussed, election delays brought about by hurricanes indeed have provided an opportunity for indicted Rep. William Jefferson to salvage his chances at reelection to the Second Congressional District.

To review, lagging candidates and those who had greater ability to draw upon political resources would be advantaged by the delay of party nomination contests from Sep. 6 to Oct. 4. Jefferson fit the bill on both; his polling numbers were unimpressive particularly for an incumbent, and because of his legal woes his campaign treasury was anemic, again especially for an incumbent.

But Jefferson has other non-pecuniary resources of incumbency he can draw upon and was given the extra time to use them while other candidates, without these, had a diminished ability to campaign due to distractions caused by New Orleans area cleanup after Hurricane Gustav. This cannot hurt the political position he appeared to be in right before the storm, leading the Democrat field with 18 percent of the intended vote – largely composed of die-hard supporters or those who had thought nothing of the campaign and went with the incumbent’s name that they know.

Typically, informed speculation would consider 18 percent a dangerous number for an incumbent, especially given twice that amount remained undecided. But with the next closest candidate the non-black Helena Moreno at 16 percent and four other black males in the higher single digits in a primary contest from an electorate that is 60 percent black, Jefferson’s position is not bad. A majority of the non-black vote will go to Moreno so she is likely to top 20 percent, as is Jefferson although neither probably will go much beyond that number. Even so, it means among the other four realistic challengers in order to get to that figure, one would have to sweep up at least a third of the remaining vote meaning, in practical terms being anywhere from a third to a half of the undecided vote.

Whether any of the other four can achieve such a consolidation is less than three weeks is rather debatable. Put both Jefferson and Moreno at 20 percent (which would be underperforming significantly among the undecided voters) and then split out the remaining candidates proportionally with the remaining undecided vote (meaning they significantly overperform among these voters) and none of them catch the top two. In other words, somebody from that other four must break out of the pack and do significantly better among undecided voters for there not to be a Jefferson-Moreno runoff for the Democrat nomination.

Whether one candidate, in the more-confused immediate post-hurricane environment whose strategies were based upon a Sep. 6 election date, can consolidate enough of the vote to ace either Jefferson or Moreno out of the nomination runoff is fairly questionable, especially given this environment favors the electioneering efforts of Jefferson. And if it does end up being these two, incredibly Jefferson would be favored to retain the seat.

Most anywhere else, having the law after you with a compelling case against you means sure defeat even as an incumbent. But in the New Orleans area, race means everything to most black Democrats, as demonstrated by Orleanians reelecting black Mayor Ray Nagin in 2006 despite the tremendous negative publicity he garnered in handling the challenges of Hurricane Katrina the year previous and despite his runoff opponent being the white Democrat sitting lieutenant governor – and this with Republicans included in the voting.

The simple facts of life are if Jefferson makes the runoff against Hispanic Moreno he very likely wins. And then he very likely wins the general election against three other little-known non-black candidates even if it is four days after his trial begins, given the political loyalty black Democrats have to their party as well as race. As improbable as it seems, Jefferson must be considered the favorite for reelection now, and the intervention of Hurricane Gustav will have had something non-trivial to do with it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reading you article in The Courier concerning the subject "Racial Voting helps Jefferson" you stated that blacks will vote overwhelmingly for a black candidate. If that is the case why didn't Jason Williams who is black, win the District Attorney race in New Orleans. By the way didn't the non-blacks vote over-whelmingly for Ms. Moreno just because she is non-black. May be that is why she is in the runoff, because beside Mr. Jefferson four of the black candidates have some kind of political experience. What kind of political experience does Ms. Moneno have?