2010 Midterm results: Part 4 – Louisiana Senate race

The seemingly eternal Senate race that started in the summer of 2009 between David Vitter and Charlie Melancon has finally ended, and the verdict of the voters was clear: anything that smacked of President Obama and/or his Democratic policies was soundly rejected in most parts of state.  While Senator Vitter always maintained double digit leads in the polls throughout the duration of the race, his 57-38% landslide over “Blue Dog” Democrat Charlie Melancon is impressive when you look at the details behind this “top line” number. If you look at the results by demographic group, whites had about a 45% turnout (we’re including the early votes), and Vitter carried these voters 73-21%. Black turnout was about 35%, and Melancon carried this group 89-5%. If you look at the race by parish, Senator Vitter carried 56 parishes, while Melancon carried only 8. This level of support is unprecedented in races where a Republican is running against a white Democrat, particularly a “Louisiana Democrat” that Melancon styled himself as – even in applicable landslide years like 1984 and 2004, Democrats carried 10 parishes.

The extent of Senator Vitter’s victory is especially impressive when you examine where each candidate received his support. The most visible sign of Louisiana voters’ rejection of Obama and his policies was in Charlie Melancon’s own House district, which gave Senator Vitter a 56-38% margin: in that area, Melancon carried the black vote by a tepid (for a Democrat) 88-7%, while Vitter swept the white vote 70-24%. Clearly the drilling moratorium, and Rep. Melancon’s lack of a forceful advocacy for his constituents, led to those disastrous results. Even his home parish of Assumption only gave him 54% of the vote.

We had noted some time ago that elections in Louisiana are increasingly defined by different candidate preferences on either side of the “Cypress Curtain” (explained here). We also noted after the Congressional party primaries that the Vitter and Melancon showings could be used to predict the November outcome. Accordingly, in the more moderate parishes east of the curtain where we foresaw some erosion in Vitter’s support, Vitter led 54-41%, while west of the curtain, the more conservative/populist voters there soundly rejected Melancon/Obama Democrats 60-34%.

There was one silver lining in Melancon’s landslide defeat: we had foretold that  “Vitter will suffer a little erosion in his support in more urban white neighborhoods in East Baton Rouge and Orleans.” Accordingly, Melancon’s landslide 75-20% showing in Orleans Parish was partly due to his carrying white neighborhoods (excluding the more conservative Lakeview/Lakeshore Drive areas) 55-41%. And while Senator Vitter carried white voters in the city limits of Baton Rouge with a more comfortable 61-33%, the fact that Melancon scored that well in those neighborhoods showed that, in these few areas, Senator Vitter/his staff’s indiscretions had some effect on the outcome in these two parishes.

Overall, the election results show that there is currently a very polarized electorate in Louisiana that, for the first time in years, provides Republicans with an electoral base of support they did not have before.

We have attached below the Senate results by parish and by Congressional district.

Senate Race By Parish

Senate Race By Parish (note: "Unallocated" refers to early votes in the larger parishes that can't be assigned to a Congressional district)