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Likely GOP LA success may foreshadow 2008 elections

Louisiana Republicans, both candidates and supporters, should take heart that an observer of politics in the state who often displays poor judgment in its analysis has written the Democrats might do well in the 2007 state elections. Such a Pollyanna attitude in the face of present evidence only will serve to make his party’s state fate more miserable in the fall while ignoring that Louisiana GOP gains may signal future national electoral fortunes.

Actually, columnist Wiley Hilburn’s miscalculation at least does not rise to the level of imbecility shown in some of previous efforts – here, it’s just bad judgment. Hilburn argues that Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco shouldn’t do so badly against Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal because (1) Jindal is so closely tied to an “unpopular” Pres. George W. Bush, (2) that Blanco is potentially popular in northern Louisiana which could spread across the state, and (3) the other Democrat candidate Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell can be popular enough to detach votes from Jindal.

None of this is true. Bush may be having troubles in other states, but not Louisiana. The last poll done of his job approval in the state, November, 2006, showed just a narrow 51-47 disapproval of Bush – and as his numbers have gone up nationally in the past three months, he well may have moved into positive territory in the state.

In the only nonpartisan statewide poll of the governor’s race to date (which itself is over a month old), Jindal was cleaning Blanco’s clock by over 25 points. Campbell, as it turns out, essentially takes away just a few percentage points from Blanco only. Interestingly, Jindal’s lead is narrowest in north Louisiana – but it’s still a lead, and this in the least populated region of the state with (using Campbell’s district as a proxy for north Louisiana) over 38 percent of the population being black, means Jindal is pulling 76 percent of the white vote to Blanco’s 13 percent in the region. And, to remind, only six percent in the statewide poll were undecided at this point, meaning Blanco has little room to improve. (Hilburn’s scientific way of countering this evidence – Blanco got what he thought was an enthusiastic reception at two engagements.)

To confirm the absurdity of Hilburn’s supposition, in the past three special election contests with any partisan competition, the insurance commissioner’s race did not even feature a Democrat, for the secretary of state’s contest a Democrat barely made the general election runoff and promptly withdrew, and in the District 1 House race, a Republican swamped the field in a district previously held by a Democrat. A lot can happen over the next nine months, but all signs indicate decent, perhaps spectacular, GOP gains in Louisiana; any Democrat operative lacking cognizance of this to incorporate into his electoral strategy endangers his party’s chances later this year.

And it would not be an accident for the state to be a bellwether for the rest of the country. Witness the GOP mayoral and statehouse wins in 1993 right after Democrat wins the previous year, foreshadowing the big Republican gains of 1994. Or check out the 2005 statehouse gains made by the Democrats preceding last year’s Congressional change in power. With this anticipated result, if also the GOP continues to consolidate power in Mississippi and Republicans retain the Kentucky statehouse, more than likely, rather than a laggard of Democrat national forces as Hilburn muses, Louisiana will turn out to be the leading indicator for 2008 demonstrating recent national Democrat gains were idiosyncratic and temporary.

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