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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Today, Louisiana holds two elections, one a foregone conclusion and the other a toss-up. In New Orleans, corrupt Democratic Congressman William Jefferson should coast to re-election. In the 4th Congressional District (the northwest section that includes Shreveport), Republican Rep. Jim McCrery is retiring, and the Democrat, Paul Carmouche, faces Republican John Fleming.

The race isn’t high profile, and after talking with a number of Obama organizers on runoff night in Georgia, it seems roughly half were aware it was even taking place. The DCCC has staffed up the contest, but this is definitely not an Obama operation.

At The Next Right, Sean Oxendine writes that today is the real test to see what judgments we can begin making about pre- and post-election Obama coattails.

Oxendine’s point is that Democrats won special elections in Louisiana’s Sixth and Mississippi’s First districts earlier this year, both of which were surprises and both of which represent roughly similar partisan makeup (they lean clearly Republican). Though not a southern contest, Dems also won Illinois’ red 14th district in the special election for Dennis Hastert’s seat. If Carmouche wins, it’s the same trend as those pre-election races. If Fleming wins, then cue the conclusions that the honeymoon is over, voters are already voting to limit Democratic power, November 4 was about Obama and not Democratic v. Republican parties generically.

If Carmouche can’t win, one fair conclusion we could make is that Republicans have gone back to winning conservative southern districts in special elections (it’s R +7 PVI). If Carmouche pulls it off — and there is scant polling in this race to indicate which way it will go — then Republican woes in winning seats they should win continues.

Regardless of what happens, the truth is that the way Obama governs over the next two years is going to determine much more about who succeeds or fails in the 2010 midterms than we can project from the Chambliss-Martin and Carmouche-Fleming runoffs. Whether Democrats pick up 22 or 21 seats this cycle in the House, it is still a very strong result, particularly coming off 30 seats in 2006. Republicans who want to chalk that up to “the media” or “Obama’s celebrity” will not have that type of denial challenged by Democrats who would like to see Republicans in the wilderness for as long as possible.

Note: In Ohio’s 15th, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy suffered a setback in her race against Republican Steve Stivers, when the all-Republican Supreme Court voted 4-2 to strike down Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s directive to count 1,000 provisional ballots. We should have some results this afternoon now that 27,000 provisional ballots can be counted in the race that Stivers leads by 149. The 1,000 ballots in dispute had been improperly signed on the outside of the envelope or signed in the wrong place, or not signed at all. So they were tossed.

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