There was a congressional runoff tonight in the 5th Congressional district in northeast Louisiana/the Florida Parishes, and in a two Republican race, businessman Vance McAllister was elected in a 60-40% landslide. In analyzing this race, the following three points need to be made:
COALITIONS MATTER (ESPECIALLY IN AN ALL REPUBLICAN RACE):
Even though voter turnout in (80% or more) black precincts was down 41% from the primary, McAllister received 86% of the black vote. It certainly didn’t hurt that the third place finisher, Democratic Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, endorsed McAllister and gave McAllister an entrée into the black community not normally available to a Republican.
But a near unanimous black vote was only part of the story, given that their turnout was an estimated 7%. A landslide this large meant that McAllister had to sweep the white conservative vote as well. In fact, precincts that were at least 80% white voted 57% for McAllister, and white turnout only decreased 4% relative to the primary (white turnout was an estimated 21%).
So how was this coalition built? In addition to the Mayo endorsement, endorsements from members of the Duck Dynasty clan and fourth place Republican finisher Clyde Holloway also contributed, because those endorsements gave McAllister a “conservative stamp of approval.”
Finally, the underlying dynamics of the race have to be considered as well. State senator Neil Riser was considered the front runner from the time he announced for the open seat, and given that perception, he had limited room for growth in the runoff after the 32% he received in the primary. McAllister, on the other hand, was the “blank slate”, which meant he could pick up the 30% who voted for a Democrat in addition to the 11% that Republican Clyde Holloway received. And coincidentally, McAllister’s primary showing of 18%, combined with the 30% Democratic vote and the 11% Holloway vote almost exactly equals what McAllister got in the runoff.
CANDIDATES NEED A BASE:
Neil Riser’s senate district was wholly contained in the 5th Congressional District, and certainly should have provided an electoral boost to the two term state senator. And while Sen. Riser in the primary did receive 52% of the vote of his senate district (while receiving 32% of the districtwide vote in the primary), the fact that he could only increase that to 55% in the runoff (even while only seeing a 2% drop in turnout from his Senate district) meant that his base was not secure, and without a secure base, a split Republican vote, combined with a unified Democratic vote for McAllister, was deadly.
WAS OBAMACARE A FACTOR?
In a televised debate on LPB a week ago, McAllister came out in favor of Medicaid expansion, which the Riser campaign made the focus of attack ads in the final week of the campaign. Fortunately for McAllister, the fact that the Riser campaign had less than a week to respond meant that there was limited, if any, electoral impact from his remarks. Plus, the fact that McAllister had endorsements from all over the political spectrum before his remarks about Medicaid expansion effectively inoculated him from attempts by the Riser campaign to define him late in the game.