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Blanco unlikely to avoid circling electoral sharks

Given her sagging, stagnant poll numbers, Gov. Kathleen Blanco will take any ray of sunshine regarding her reelection attempt in 2007. But she better not look too closely at them or she’ll be blinded from the truth of her precarious position.

She might be tempted to take heart in that the incumbent Democrat governors of Michigan and Illinois were reelected earlier this month despite having popularity numbers similar to hers. But she needs to face reality. For one thing, Republicans in both states self-destructed in their choices of candidates (for Illinois, their second one since the frontrunner withdrew after questions were raised about his personal behavior). This is unlikely to occur in Louisiana since one juggernaut of a Republican opponent (Rep. Bobby Jindal) has all but declared his candidacy, and another who would be favored against Blanco (state Sen. Walter Boasso) has expressed interest.

The other thing is that 2006 was a “perfect storm” year for the Democrats, one unlikely to be repeated for a long time. Certainly next year won’t be especially because Blanco will be unable to replicate the national Democrats’ strategy of running against everything without being for something. Voting behavior is such that national electoral forces can trickle down extensively to state elections, and embattled Democrat governors benefited. But without national elections in 2007, attention will squarely be on the Blanco record, and it isn’t pretty. If anything, given demographic changes, 2007 will edge closer to being a Republican storm in Louisiana, although probably not perfect.

Blanco also might be encouraged by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s comeback win earlier this year. Nagin, along with Blanco, was seen by many as negligent in disaster preparation and response, yet he eked out a reelection victory.

However, there was a simple election calculus present in New Orleans that will be absent at the state level. That is: (1) Nagin is black Democrat, (2) a majority of those present in New Orleans on election day were black Democrats, so (3) Nagin wins. This is untrue at the state level where likely only a quarter of the electorate a year from now in the state will be black Democrats – down in proportion from Blanco’s narrow win in 2003.

With these dynamics operating against her, unless Blanco can boost her approval ratings to the 50 percent mark, it would take a miracle for her to win reelection in 2007.

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