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Thanksgiving Day, 2007.

This column publishes usually every Sunday through Thursday after noon (sometimes even before; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Independence Day or Christmas or New Year's when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are six of these: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas.

With Thursday, Nov. 22 being Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to explore the link above.


EBR numbers compensate little for Democrat losses

Much attention has been given to displacement effects of the 2005 hurricane disasters in Louisiana, particularly in Orleans Parish but also, to a lesser extent Jefferson and St. Bernard. As I mentioned yesterday, this has created interesting dynamics in Orleans Parish, which confirms the thought that Democrats are disproportionately disadvantaged in statewide contests. But another interesting consideration is whether a substantial portion of those displaced ended up in East Baton Rouge Parish and thereby could mitigate the Democrat disadvantage.

Census data released earlier this year showed New Orleans had lost of age 20 and up almost 129,000 black and about 40,000 white residents from 2005 to 2006. At the same time, of East Baton Rouge of residents of that age blacks gained over 15,000 while whites were virtually identical in total. Assuming whites split between Democrat and Republican, 80 percent of blacks register as Democrats and 10 percent Republican, and further assuming 55 percent of blacks of age register to vote, this means about 50,000 Democrat votes were lost in Orleans and about 6,000 gained in Baton Rouge – in other words, not much compensation. (Of course, in 2007 some more have trickled back to Orleans from Baton Rouge and out of state.)

Registration and election returns verify Baton Rouge gains won’t provide much Democrat cushion. From the end of 2005 to just prior to the 2007 primary elections, whites had been reduced on the rolls by about 3,000 and blacks increased about the same. In the 2003 sheriff’s primary election, about 116,000 participated, while in the same 2007 election about 118,000 voted in an election whose turnout was down slightly from the previous four years because even as white turnout was about the same black turnout was down about 6 percent, which questions the speculation that blacks or even Democrats may have made a pivotal difference in that parish’s 2007 contests.

These numbers means that perhaps half of presumably displaced blacks in the parish typically expected to actually did register to vote, implying that some may return to Orleans and/or have disengaged from the electoral process. It also may mean there is fertile ground for recruitment but only a few thousand votes for statewide purposes could be added.

Knowing they may have “lost” a few thousand less voters than anticipated may make Democrats feel better, but it does little to reverse the major long-term problem they face of declining numbers in Louisiana.


Crossover voting may not affect upcoming Senate race

Perhaps an item that slipped by the consciousness of observers was election results in New Orleans that contradicted long-held conventional wisdom about race and voting. In several plurality-black constituencies, non-blacks were elected which is a reversal of past trends. More intriguingly, you had white candidates winning in majority-black constituencies because black crossover voting exceeded white crossover voting – and this could have consequences for upcoming statewide elections.

In House districts in New Orleans, among the four plurality (but not majority) black districts, three white candidates won. (And in the 102nd, Democrat incumbent Jeff Arnold, white, won again in his majority black district). Parish/city-wide, an at-large council seat and Criminal Court judgeship were won by whites where black registrants outnumber whites by almost double.

Most interestingly, rough estimates of voting show that white voters in contests pitting a white and black candidate were only about half as likely to vote for the black candidate as blacks were to vote for the white candidate. This is highly significant because with very few exceptions the ratio typically has been in the reverse in Louisiana urban elections – as shown in New Orleans only last year with its mayoral election.

If victories for white candidates came about because of lack of black numbers because of 2005 hurricane displacement, that is interesting. But because, at least in the city-wide races, crossover voting that showed less solidarity among blacks than whites which was the margin of victory for white candidates truly is astounding, contradicting much of the literature explaining elections in urban America that consistently have shown whites are more likely than blacks to cross over racial lines in voting.

Whether this will have an impact on the 2008 election for the Senate is another matter. Larger-than-normal black crossover voting, it must be noted, applied only to white Democrats, so it well may not apply to one or more white Republicans running against incumbent white Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu. By way of example, black voting for southeast Asian Indian Republican Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal ran within norms in Orleans at about 10 percent.

Still, this represents an intriguing potential trend. In all probability, it may be a factor of individual candidacies specific to this election and may not play out as a permanent kind of shift. If it were to, one possible explanation would be that displacement disproportionately affected lower-income individuals, disproportionately black Democrats, who would be less likely to defect from monoracial voting. Future election results will confirm whether this is a blip, or a new phenomenon awaiting study and explanation.


Term limits overcame personalistic, incumbency effects

I know some people who refuse to leave home after dark on New Year’s Eve because they argue it’s “amateur night” for partiers and therefore their chances of a motor vehicle accident not their fault increase dramatically. We see a similar dynamic with elections when those not accustomed to reporting about politics end up doing it, and in doing so create wrecks of their own when it comes to analysis, aided in part by some unsustainable assertions that do not accurately assess the impact of party and incumbency in the 2007 legislative elections.

What is one to do with the published statement “Louisiana voters may have put less emphasis on party labels in Saturday's general election and more on individual candidates, challenging pre-election predictions and showing a different dynamic at the polls?” Anybody trained in analyzing political parties and elections at the state or local level, or who have watched them in action attentively around these parts, or who have done both, knows the highly personalistic political culture in the state de-emphasizes partisan politics perhaps more than anywhere else in the Union. I don’t recall seeing anything in print about how partisanship as an attitude would play a much magnified role in the 2007 elections, and it’s no surprise that its impact, as always, was small. (Especially considering only 4 Senate and 12 House districts of the 144 total even have pluralities of Republican registrants – 11 percent – yet 15 Senate and 50 House Republicans get elected, 45 percent of the total.)

Further, “Prior to the election analysts had said they expected a Republican-majority would be in the Louisiana House of Representatives, which was anticipated following Republican Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's victory in the October primary.” I must have missed these “analysts’” statements: certainly I wasn’t among them as I gave my prediction last week on WIST’s “Inside New Orleans” with Eric Asher as 54 to 55 Democrat or leaning-Democrat House wins (54 actual). Not only was there little expectation the GOP could take the House after Oct. 20, a month before qualifying Republicans were conceding the enterprise would be a longshot.