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Process to, not nominee, shapes Landrieu's chances

It’s refreshing to see that the media and other interested political observers finally have caught on to what I observed many months ago – that Sen. Mary Landrieu’s reelection chances are going to be significantly reduced if Sen. Hillary Clinton gets the Democrats’ nomination for president.

Simply, given the dynamics of Louisiana’s political scene – and now especially since a serious challenger in the form of Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy has committed to the contest – Landrieu is on thin ice to get reelected with Clinton at the top of the ticket. When somebody has about half the American public not wanting to vote for her under any circumstances, it’s bound to trickle down and harm under-ballot candidates across the country.

Whether Sen. Barack Obama was the party’s nominee would help Landrieu is another matter, at best marginally. While Obama would do better than Clinton in a matchup against presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain because he is the “magic Negro” prepared to give some white voters a chance to assuage their “white guilt,” that also is unlikely to trickle down very much to assist her since that magic will be contained mostly to perceptions about him.

Still, the fact is that McCain on his own will not activate conservatives to show up at the polls to vote for him and for other Republican nominees. Obama won’t do much to activate them against himself no matter how well publicized his liberal voting record is, but Clinton could get them riled to vote against her. For that reason, Landrieu should prefer that Obama carry the flag for the party in November even if his extreme liberalism will not limit much the losses sustained compared to Clinton as the nominee.

While the hypothesis that black voters, a voting base for Landrieu, would be activated by an Obama candidacy, is credible it can be overstated. If Clinton wraps up the nomination prior to the convention, she will rack up a similar number of black voters in the fall as would have Obama. But if it turns into an open convention with a floor fight for the Democrat nomination, the bitterness of a potential Obama defeat might discourage black voters from going to the polls and once there supporting Landrieu in November. Otherwise, expect a similar black turnout for either candidate, which Landrieu hopes is as high as can be.

So while it’s too simplistic to argue that one or the other Democrat presidential nominee will hurt Landrieu’s chances more, more pertinent is that either nominee is going to hurt Landrieu’s chances, and how much damage done will depend upon how bitter the nomination struggle is for the Democrats’ nominee for the presidency.

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