04 May, 2008

LA-06 flips to Democrats in special election

In another demonstration of the GOP's weak position this year, the Republicans once again lost what was considered a safe seat to a Democratic challenger. Democrat Ron Cazayoux (which in crazy creole speak is pronounced "caz-you") won the special election over Republican Woody Jenkins after Republican incumbent Richard Baker retired early (to take a lucrative lobbying position. Natch.) Louisiana's sixth congressional district has been in the control of Republicans for a solid 33 years, and President Bush received 59% of the district's vote in 2004. Clearly the Republicans are in a tough spot.

But the bigger story here is that LA-06 was targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee to test out their nascent "anti-Obama" strategy. Given Obama's recent struggles, the national GOP saw an opening to turn Obama's once magic touch into a liability for down-ticket Democratic candidates. The campaign against Cazayoux sought to paint him as too liberal for the conservative district, largely by associating him with Obama -- with slogans like "a vote for Cazayoux is a vote for Obama". It certainly appears, however, that the strategy failed to pay dividends, as Cazayoux won by three points, 49 to 46, even after what has clearly been the roughest patch of Senator Obama's candidacy to date. Another test of the anti-Obama strategy will come on May 13, as Travis Childers (D) seeks to overthrow Republican rule of another congressional district in Mississippi, and has come under similar, if more overtly racist, attacks.

One more note: It is gratifying to see that Cazayoux's victory is likely due to an upswell in African-American support -- suggesting that Obama may be more competitive in the south than many had hoped, or feared.

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