But most of Louisiana emphatically does not—and Cassidy has made sure every sentient being in the state knows that Landrieu has voted with Obama 97 percent of the time.
Landrieu also suffers from population migrations brought by Hurricane Katrina. It’s not that the black Democratic base in Louisiana is smaller—it isn’t—but that it’s much harder, at least in New Orleans, to get out the vote. Katrina’s temporary displacement of communities citywide helped undermine the power of a spate of previously super-strong black political organizations known by the acronyms SOUL, BOLD, COUP, and LIFE, along with the progressive Democrats of the now-imprisoned former representative William “Cold Cash” Jefferson. More permanently, the Lower Ninth Ward, whose relatively concentrated population was easy to round up by bus in past elections, was wiped out by the storm and remains, nine years later, the scene of scattered, lovingly tended homes amidst acres of empty lots and ruins.
The numbers are instructive: With boatloads of gambling money turning out liberal voters to support a referendum for a land-based casino in November 1996, Landrieu eked out a 5,788-vote win with the help of 47,213 votes in the Ninth Ward. In her first reelection, in 2002, she got 31,365 votes from the Ninth in the primary. This year, while still earning well over 90 percent of Ninth Ward votes, her total fell to 17,845.
Losing 30,000 votes in just one ward, and nearly 14,000 from the most recent midterm contest, is a tough blow in a tight race.