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Signs point to Republican retention of LA Fourth District

With the reelection of Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss yesterday, only one probable competitive federal contest remains to complete election cycle 2008, in Louisiana’s Fourth Congressional District (while by no means impossible, Rep. Bill Jefferson is not likely to lose in the state’s Second District). Chambliss’ win gives clues as to the winner between Republican physician/businessman John Fleming and Democrat former First District Attorney Paul Carmouche.

Fleming has run as a solid conservative from the start in this conservative district, while Carmouche has tried to do the same despite his party label that won president-elect Barack Obama all of 39 percent of the vote in the district. Citing his prosecutorial background and constantly articulating social conservative views, Carmouche has bent over backwards to argue he can work for a liberal taskmaster such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who dropped in during the campaign to help him raise money) yet somehow reflect conservative values in his representation.

It is the preferred strategy by non-incumbent Southern Democrats, trying to appear conservative on a few issues to “inoculate” themselves against charges that they largely will serve liberal interests. But it’s wearing thin, as results across the South showed in November, and in December now (the election pushed back here because of Hurricane Gustav-induced difficulties) odds are it will come a-cropper on Carmouche.

Two dynamics are at work here, both because this is an election outside the normal election day: that disproportionately better-informed voters will show up at the polls, and that there is no one at the top of the ballot which with Obama in November served to give an extra boost to Democrats. Reviewing the first consideration, more casual voters are less likely to vote this time out than in November, and these voters are typically less informed and therefore less likely to grasp the contradictions of the Carmouche candidacy.

For example, despite the fact that pro-abortion forces such as Pelosi have rallied to the aide of Carmouche, he says he’s pro-life and implies he’d vote that way on legislation addressing that in Congress. But more informed voters doubt that he would. One thing that Obama is likely to do is relaxing the current presidential order that funds not be given to international groups that advocate and perform abortions, so the next budget passed by Congress could include that kind of funding. So Carmouche really is going to stand up to Pelosi (who was rebuked by American bishops for suggesting the Catholic theology really did not ban abortion, while some church leaders including Pope Benedict XVI have suggested Catholic politicians should not take communion if they voted to support abortion) on this, or would he try to have it both ways?

Carmouche has stated, on occasions such as this, he would act independently and still have influence in a liberal party. But either he is being dishonest or ignorant with this attitude. On tougher issues where there will be defections, perhaps from the 45 or so (hard to tell how many exactly are left given recent election results) “blue dog” Democrats currently in the House (Carmouche wants to join the caucus if he wins), a lot of pressure will be put on him to vote liberal. And on others, he will have no influence at all because (if he and Jefferson win) there will be 257 Democrats in the House, meaning even discarding the fiscally moderate blue dogs Pelosi has around 210 sure votes. A few absent members and GOP defectors on each vote, and Pelosi can ignore the blue dogs and Carmouche. So he will often be there for her against the will of his district, and often when he is not he will have no influence anyway. This is something better-informed voters understand and therefore conservatives among them will be hesitant to support him.

Concerning the other consideration, the Georgia election shows that while Chambliss’ vote total dropped off about 600,000 from November to December, his Democrat opponent’s dropped about 800,000 (although Chambliss’ figures may be slightly understated because he probably picked up some portion of those who voted for the Libertarian candidate in November although the majority of those voters probably stayed home in December). The same dynamic will be at work Saturday in Louisiana.

The only independent survey of the contest assumed 72 percent turnout among registered voters and that 27 percent of the electorate would be blacks (which the survey showed favored Carmouche by 85 to 9 percent), which deduced Fleming would win by two percent. Both of those turnout figures are optimistic; overall turnout may reach two-thirds of that number and black turnout was only 28 percent of the total electorate in the October primary where there were both local and statewide contests on the ballot with especially intense local contests in Caddo Parish where well over half of the district’s blacks live.

After Democrats won the White House in 1992 and retained control of Congress, a Georgia runoff for the Senate that captured a seat from the Democrats was the very first signal of the approaching Republican onslaught of 1994. Should Fleming retain the seat for the GOP, it could be the initial sign of a Republican comeback in 2010.

1 comment:

RightDemocrat said...

Voters are sick of trickle down Republican economics. The number one issue is getting the economy back on track and the GOP has clearly failed in that regard.

Conservative Democrats can help to block gun control bills and pro-abortion legislation. Furthermore, there is little chance that abortion is going to be banned in the vast majority of states anytime soon even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. A more effective pro-life strategy is to promote social and economic supports to encourage more women facing an unexpected pregnancy to choose life.