2010 Midterm results: Part 3 – Louisiana Congressional races

In the previous two articles in the series, we looked at the Senate and Governor’s races across the nation. We would like to shift gears in this article to focus on the Louisiana Congressional races.

Overall, the GOP did very well in Congressional races in Louisiana. While the delegation remained 6-1 Republican, the Democrats picked up a seat in New Orleans that was won by a Republican under unusual circumstances while losing, as expected, Democrat Charlie Melancon’s seat in south Louisiana.  The other noteworthy thing about the Congressional races was that they were all blowout races, with the “closest” race (relatively speaking) being up in northwest Louisiana, where freshman Republican John Fleming of Minden defeated his two opponents with 62% of the vote.

When you look at the detailed precinct data, an interesting picture emerges of the Louisiana electorate. The most obvious facet of this year’s electorate was that it was very polarized on both sides of the racial aisle. Four of the incumbent Republicans (Steve Scalise, John Fleming, Rodney Alexander, and Bill Cassidy) were re-elected with over 80% of the white vote – a near unanimous response you normally see only in landslide races. In the south Louisiana seat that Charlie Melancon vacated, Republican Jeff Landry received an impressive 77% of the white vote – not an unexpected result, given that the drilling moratorium was an issue that directly impacted much of the district. The “weakest” showing of any Republican with the white vote, ironically, was by freshman “Joseph” Cao, whose 72-25% lead with the white vote contributed to his landslide defeat – more on this race later.

Curiously, the polarization we mentioned above also extended to the black vote. In fact, none of the Republican candidates running received close to a majority of the black vote – pretty unusual for Congressional races in Louisiana. While Rodney Alexander scored a (relatively) impressive 36% of the black vote, he was also running against an independent. The other five Republican candidates received between 7-13% of the black vote – all of “Joseph” Cao’s extensive black outreach only got him 8% of the black vote. One bright spot for the GOP: not only did newcomer Jeff Landry get 13% of the black vote, but in Iberia and St Martin parishes, he received 18%.

We’d now like to digress by directly addressing the results in the 2nd Congressional district (New Orleans and the Westbank) – one of three Republican House seats to flip back to the Democrats in the midst of the GOP landslide. While there were those who had hoped the Cao’s outreach to black votes and his courtship of the Obama administration would win him another term in this overwhelmingly Democratic district, simple electoral mathematics made his re-election nearly impossible. For one thing, Cao’s victory was achieved by his running against a scandal-tarred incumbent in an election held in December (the race was delayed because of Hurricane Gustav, which pushed the 2008 Congressional primary/runoff/general election back a month). In that low (18%) turnout race, blacks made up only 49% of the electorate. Which meant that Cao was able to eke out a 49.5-47% victory by carrying the white vote 88-8%, while the black vote went 87-10% for then-Congressman Jefferson.

It was apparent to anyone who analyzed that race that the 2010 electorate, especially with the Vitter/Melancon matchup at the top of the ballot, would be significantly more Democratic. In fact, we estimate that about 60% of those voting in the November election were black and, despite Cao’s efforts, he actually lost ground with this voting bloc compared to 2008, as he only received 8% of the black vote compared to Cedric Richmond’s 91%. While this turnout differential alone brought Rep. Richmond over the top – and then some, Cao’s support plunged among white voters as well. His 88-8% 2008 landslide became a 72-25% showing (in other words, a 16% drop compared to 2008) in 2010, with a slightly weaker 70-29% showing in the more liberal Garden District/Uptown precicnts.  It was in these precincts that Richmond ran up the score and ultimately won the election 65-33%.

For now, the numbers mean that any white Democrat running statewide (and, in some circumstances, for legislative races) faces long odds, given the current mood of the electorate. But these numbers also mean that, without taking next year’s reapportionment into consideration, Democrats still have a base of support in the 4th (northwest Louisiana) and 6th  (the Baton Rouge media market) Congressional districts that makes them competitve if either of these seats opens up at some point in the future.

We are attaching a graphic showing the breakdown by race of these Congressional races.

2010 Louisiana Congressional Races