Give Mary Landrieu credit for thinking outside the box in a tough re-election campaign she’s not likely to win. Most politicians pander to their constituents, praising them and talking about what an honor it is to serve them. Landrieu tried a different approach with just a few days left before those voters go to the polls — insulting them by telling Chuck Todd that they’re racists and sexists.
Isn’t this something one claims after a loss, and not before it?
Louisiana Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu said Thursday that the issue of race is a major reason that President Barack Obama has struggled politically in Southern states.
“I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans,” Landrieu told NBC News in an interview. “It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”
Noting that the South is “more of a conservative place,” she added that women have also faced challenges in “presenting ourselves.”
She should have stuck with energy policy. That was a smart answer, one that positioned herself well against the White House in a cycle where she desperately needs that distance. It’s also a very good reason why Louisiana voters dislike Obama and his policies, although there are plenty of other policy reasons that Landrieu doesn’t mention. Instead, Landrieu buried that savvy response with her take on Louisiana — which Todd specified in his question, even though Landrieu broadened it to the rest of the South.
Let’s take a look at the latter claim first. How difficult has Landrieu had it? She managed to win three terms in the US Senate from the same state in which she now claims women are at a disadvantage. Landrieu has been winning elections in Louisiana since 1979. She has only lost one election in the 35 years since, the 1995 gubernatorial election that Murphy Foster eventually won, but won the US Senate election the following year. And won it again in 2002, and again in 2008 when Barack Obama was at the top of the ticket, too.
As for the racism charge, the two-term governor of South Asian descent has a few words for Landrieu:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted Landrieu’s comments as desperate and out of touch.
“She appears to be living in a different century. Implied in her comments is the clear suggestion that President Obama and his policies are unpopular in Louisiana because of his ethnicity,” said Jindal. “That is a major insult by Senator Landrieu to the people of Louisiana, and I flatly reject it.”
Breitbart’s Wynton Hall wonders whether Landrieu’s comments will spill over into other Southern elections, such as in Kentucky, Georgia, and Arkansas. Perhaps, although it would take a news media willing to ask Democrats the follow-up questions with the same zeal they did Republicans after Todd Akin’s remarks in 2012. Will national media figures give already-beleagured Democrats in those states the same opportunity to insult their constituents as Landrieu did? Color me skeptical. Perhaps Republicans can demand an answer from them, but so far most of them won’t even answer the question of whether they voted for Barack Obama.
As for Landrieu, it’s difficult to see how much worse she could make things for herself. There may be people who harbor racist and sexist prejudices in Louisiana, but there are such people in every state, and Louisiana has twice elected a person of color as governor and a woman as Senator three times in a row. That string was going to come to an end anyway — Landrieu would lose a runoff handily and has no chance of avoiding one — but now one has to wonder whether she’ll even lead on Tuesday running against the split vote on the Right.
“The people trust me,” Landrieu tells Chuck Todd. Not so much any more, Senator.