Robert Mann writes today at NOLA.com that “conventional wisdom” is on the side of [mc_name name=’Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’V000127′ ] and “conventional wisdom” has a crappy track record (paraphrased). He then goes on to detail the various times when the front-runner in a Louisiana gubernatorial primary ended up losing. If the idea that [mc_name name=’Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’V000127′ ], who is leading in polling with 35% of those polled, is going to win was just conventional wisdom, I’d agree. But the facts don’t entirely line up with the view Mann has.
For example, if you look at the last two gubernatorial races, there was nothing close to what Mann describes. He goes back twelve years to find the most recent example, and he glosses over the fact that, while there was a crowded field, the division in votes was in the Democrats’ favor nearly 2 to 1. The total Republican vote was under 40% in the primary. Jindal got 32% of it then, and he got just over 48% in the run-off. The Democrats, in that case, got in line. Also note that Blanco ran on a platform that was supposed to appeal to Republicans.
Then, Katrina happened, and Kathleen Blanco, who had defeated Jindal, botched it royally. Republicans swept into power, and more Democrats in the state became Republican. The next two gubernatorial elections didn’t even make it to run-offs. [mc_name name=’Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’L000550′ ]’s re-election in 2008 in this case is the anomaly, as she won on the back of Barack Obama and not necessarily through her own appeal (Republicans have dominated statewide elections since 2007, and black turnout was much higher than average across the board).
To further solidify this, look at the current race. There is one Democrat, and he is only getting 30% in the polls. If history is anything to go by, the polling is skewed toward the Democrats already, and there is no split vote here. Mann gives us the impression that supporters of Jay Dardenne’s and Scott Angelle’s supporters won’t turn out for Vitter in the run-off. If you look at the last statewide election, the Republicans fell in line rather effectively behind Cassidy, and there is no reason to assume they wouldn’t again this year. And, being an odd year with no federal race on the ballot, the chances of Democratic turnout, particularly among the black voters (the group Edwards is trying his hardest to appeal to), are slim.
Mann’s column, while incredibly optimistic, does not actually deal with the situation on the ground in Louisiana, and is rooted almost entirely in Democratic well-wishing. You can pick and choose which history to tell, but you do so at your own peril. The facts of the present may be influenced by history, in other words, but not just the history you want it to be influenced by.