What’s the GOP’s problem with Louisiana’s black voters?

By Robert Mann

Sen. Mary Landrieu has taken a beating for her poor showing among white voters in the Nov. 4 Louisiana U.S. Senate primary. Only 18 percent of white voters chose Landrieu over her Republican opponents, Rep. Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness. Among white males, Landrieu’s support was only 15 percent.

White support for Landrieu was down sharply from 2008, when 33 percent of that demographic group supported her.

What is Landrieu’s problem with white voters? It’s a complicated matter, but midterm electorates are always older and whiter, which was bad for Democrats everywhere. Cassidy also effectively tied Landrieu to a black president who is unpopular with white voters in Louisiana (Obama got about 16 percent of Louisiana’s white vote in 2012.)

While the question of Landrieu’s growing disfavor among white voters is worthy of debate and investigation, let’s not forget the other side of this voting equation. That is Cassidy’s abysmally poor showing among black voters. On Nov. 4, the person who will likely be Louisiana’s new U.S. senator received just 3 percent of black votes. Landrieu, meanwhile, captured 94 percent of those voters, a notch under her 96 percent mark in 2008.

Those Cassidy numbers haven’t received much attention because they are not surprising. Black voters rarely support Republicans in congressional and statewide races in Louisiana.

To some Republicans, that is a scandal. Among them is state Sen. Elbert Guillory, a black Republican from Opelousas, who has become a celebrity among Republicans for his efforts to persuade black voters to switch parties. In addition to appearing in a spot attacking Landrieu, he showed up on television in North Carolina to assail incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who lost on Nov. 4.

“You see, black people are just being used by limousine liberals who have become our new overseers,” Guillory said in the North Carolina spot, paid for by the group Our America. “We’ve only traded one plantation for the other.” In his video attacking Landrieu, Guillory said to black voters, “You’re just a means to an end, so that she remains in power.”

Guillory clearly wants you to know how fervently Republicans like him and Cassidy desire the votes of black people.

There’s a problem with this pitch. Cassidy has made no concerted effort to woo black voters. He campaigned briefly with Dr. Ben Carson, a popular black conservative who seems to be plotting a presidential campaign. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., one of two black members of the U.S. Senate, is scheduled to join him at an early voting rally in Monroe on Saturday.

Truth be told, if Republicans like Cassidy were passionate about persuading black voters, they would be doing much more than flying in Carson and Scott and throwing scraps of TV time to Guillory.

Ignoring black votes makes political sense for Cassidy. He doesn’t need them to win. Cassidy surely knows he’ll get about 75 percent of the white vote, which is more than enough to defeat Landrieu if black voters turn out at the same rate as whites.

Still, why does Guillory — outraged over Landrieu’s perceived disregard for his black constituents — see no problem with Cassidy’s reluctance to woo those same voters?

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

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School bus or church bus? EBR school bus driver accused of religious harassment

The ACLU of Louisiana delivered an open letter Tuesday to the superintendent of East Baton Rouge Schools, the principal of Broadmoor High Schools, and the director of transportation for East Baton Rouge Schools, concerning a student who was allegedly detained and harassed by a school bus driver in violation of the student’s rights. The letter reads as follows:


Dr. Bernard Taylor, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools
East Baton Rouge Parish School System

Shalonda T. Simoneaux, Principal
Broadmoor High School

Gary J. Reese
Interim Administrative Director of Transportation

Dear Dr. Taylor, Ms. Simoneaux and Mr. Reese:

It has been brought to the attention of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana that an East Baton Rouge Parish School System school bus driver for Broadmoor High School has used her position of authority to detain a student on the bus and proselytize him in clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Moreover, the bus driver used her position of authority to harass and discriminate against that student because of his perceived sexual orientation in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

This letter is to inform you that it is your legal responsibility to: 1) fully investigate this student’s complaint; 2) educate all employees, including bus drivers, of East Baton Rouge Parish School System regarding the First Amendment Establishment Clause, specifically that proselytizing to a student is not permitted; and regarding Title IX’s prohibition of harassment and discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) students; and 3) ensure that harassment and discrimination against students in violation of the law is not tolerated and is stopped.


On the morning of Friday, October 10, 2014, sixteen-year-old student John Doe and his sister Jane Doe were exiting the school bus (#17230) at Broadmoor High School when the driver instructed John Doe to stay behind.  After the last student exited the bus the driver told her elementary aged children to go sit in the back of the bus. The driver then asked John Doe if he went to church or participated in any church-like activity. When John Doe told the driver no, she told him that “going to church is how he can avoid sin.”  She proceeded to tell John Doe that homosexuality is a “sin” and that he can go to hell for it.  The driver told John Doe that he needed to go to church, pray and repent and god would forgive him of his “sinful ways.”  The driver told John Doe what bible he should get and that she could give him the name of a church if his mother would bring him.

During this time Jane Doe, John Doe’s sister, waited for him outside of the bus.  As the driver and her brother began to talk Jane knew something was wrong because her brother’s facial expressions indicated he was very upset.  When John Doe exited the bus he told his sister what the driver had said to him.  Jane Doe immediately informed the principal, Shalonda Simoneaux, of what the driver said to her brother.  Ms. Simoneaux’s response was “call transportation because I’m not her boss.” To our knowledge, Ms. Simoneaux did not report the bus driver’s inappropriate behavior, and she did not advise John or Jane Doe of the procedure for reporting the bus driver, or provide any support or guidance to John and Jane Doe.

When John and Jane Doe told their mother what had occurred she immediately telephoned both the driver’s supervisor and the superintendent, but reached the voicemail of both. Ms. Doe then contacted the Assistant Principal, Mr. McDonald, who emailed the transportation office.   Ms. Doe eventually spoke with Ms. Tolliver in the transportation department who said she would investigate the matter. The following week Ms. Tolliver informed Ms. Doe that she had spoken with the driver and explained to her that she could not talk about bibles or sexuality with a student.  John and Jane Doe were never asked for their statements, nor did any school official speak with either John or Jane to resolve this issue.  The school bus driver continues to drive the bus that both John and Jane Doe must use to attend school every day, subjecting them to the prospect of future harassment.

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Bobby Jindal’s budget deficit won’t help his presidential campaign

By Robert Mann

In the business of running for president, there are advantages and there are qualifications. Maybe you exude charisma. Perhaps you enacted an innovative education reform program. Those are advantages. And they don’t count for much with Republican primaries voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire if you don’t meet the basic qualifications for the job.

In Republican politics these days, the qualifications are simple: You must never have raised a tax and, if a governor, you must never have presided over an unbalanced state budget. All your advantages — your personality, your policy credentials, the importance of your state in Electoral College politics — won’t help you much if you don’t meet these basic qualifications.

That, of course, is why Gov. Bobby Jindal and his aides are so reluctant to admit what everyone outside their inner circle knows: Louisiana government ended the 2014 fiscal year with a $141 million budget deficit. As Jindal understands, he cannot get past the 2016 Iowa presidential caucuses if voters there grasp that embarrassing, disqualifying news.

If you visit the main Louisiana government website, you won’t find a word about the Jindal deficit. That’s because Jindal and his commissioner of administration, Kristy Nichols, assert that the state ended the fiscal year with a $178.5 million surplus. It’s a number Jindal and Nichols achieved by sweeping, as Nichols acknowledged, “a variety of funds.”

In other words, faced with an embarrassing deficit, Jindal unleashed his fiscal vacuum cleaner and sucked up every spare dime he could find in virtually every corner of state government.

Jindal might boast of a surplus, but that’s not what happened. Louisiana ended the 2014 fiscal year with an “operational budget deficit” of $140.6 million, the Legislative Fiscal Office’s chief economist, Greg Albrecht, reported in October. Jindal only reconciled the state’s books, Albrecht noted, by seizing “unexpended fee and inter-agency transfer collections.”

Let’s say, for example, that last year I spent more than I earned. By late December, I’m so broke that I cannot make my mortgage payment. Upon realizing this fact, I sneak into my children’s bedroom as they sleep. Only after I empty their piggy banks, pawn off my son’s Xbox and sell my daughter’s cell phone do I have enough to pay my bills.

After all that, I have $100 left over. What do you know? I ended the year with a surplus! Aren’t I a brilliant and prudent money manager?

When it comes to the state’s finances, Jindal is just that kind of “parent.” He signed a reckless income tax cut for the wealthy in 2008, which permanently undermined the state’s tax base. To address that problem, he adopted a troubling habit of balancing his budgets with non-recurring revenue, such as selling off state assets and robbing reserve accounts dedicated for specific purposes. (In 2014, Jindal’s budget contained almost a billion dollars in one-time money, something he once railed against.)

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Where’d your blog get that funny name?

By Robert Mann

I often get asked about the curious name of this blog. I’d like to say it was inspired by famed Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, who has said that the best journalism can do is give its readers “the best-obtainable version of the truth.”

It’s actually from the line of a poem by John Haines, whose other political poems are collected here.

This election season seems like as good a time as any to share with you this lovely Haines’ poem, “The Last Election.”


Suppose there are no returns,
and the candidates, one
by one, drop off in the polls,
as the voters turn away,
each to his inner persuasion.

The front-runners, the dark horses,
begin to look elsewhere,
and even the President admits
he has nothing new to say;
it is best to be silent now.

No more conventions, no donors,
no more hats in the ring;
no ghost-written speeches,
no promises we always knew
were never meant to be kept.

And something like the truth,
or what we knew by that name –
that for which no corporate
sponsor was ever offered –
takes hold of the public mind.

Each subdued and thoughtful
citizen closes his door, turns
off the news. He opens a book,
speaks quietly to his children,
begins to live once more.

Does Mary Landrieu have a chance? Not if she can’t win more white votes

Screen shot of November 6, 2014, Louisiana exit poll from CNN.com
Screen shot of November 6, 2014, Louisiana exit poll from CNN.com

By Robert Mann

It’s now clear that Sen. Mary Landrieu’s relentless talk about her clout took a big hit in Tuesday’s election. Not only has much of her power vanished along with the Democrats’ Senate majority; her message about what she has done for Louisiana did not resonate with voters.

If Landrieu ekes out a surprising, narrow win in her Dec. 6 runoff with Rep. Bill Cassidy, she might give thanks for Tuesday’s rebuke, which will force her to talk about something that really matters to voters.

As I have written before, reminding voters disgusted with Congress about one’s Washington seniority was not a winning message. Cassidy had the more effective pitch, which was, essentially, “Elect me and I will vote against Barack Obama 100 percent of the time.”

Landrieu’s clout message might have worked a generation ago, but an older, whiter electorate was more interested in punishing President Obama than embracing Landrieu and all her power.

Perhaps Landrieu had polling data that suggested a message about her clout was potent. If so, based on Tuesday’s results, she needs a new pollster. She might even need a new media consultant. Whatever the case, she must retool her message and began speaking more to voters’ real-life concerns.

On election night, Landrieu moved quickly to refocus her message. Recognizing that Cassidy is the clear frontrunner, she challenged him to six debates and unveiled a website that hits him on a range of pocketbook issues important to the voters she most needs in December.

Does Landrieu have any route to victory? Not likely. If she does, however, it may be in a little-noticed poll conducted in mid-October by Democracy Corps, a Democratic organization headed by pollster Stanley Greenberg and political strategist James Carville. The two surveyed 1,000 white likely Louisiana voters, including a subset of 456 persuadable white likely voters.

Democracy Corps tested a series of messages by Cassidy and Landrieu. Among the more resonant messages for Landrieu were those about Cassidy’s support for raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 (an issue Landrieu has discussed in her TV spots) and Cassidy’s votes against a bipartisan plan to protect victims of domestic violence and his opposition to guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work.

In this poll, the worst message, by far, for Landrieu was about her power and influence. On the other hand, messages about Social Security, Medicare and women’s issues resonated with about 70 percent of those persuadable white voters.

“The strongest comparative between Landrieu and Cassidy centers on women’s issues – Landrieu’s support for equal pay, ending insurance discrimination and making college affordable versus Cassidy’s votes against equal pay, the Violence Against Women Act and preventative health care for women,” Carville and Greenberg write.

Perhaps Landrieu’s strategists didn’t see this survey. They have certainly seen the election returns. They now know it’s time for a hard reset.

Continue reading at NOLA.com this link.

Can Edwin Edwards win? The math is clear: not a chance

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 8.59.32 PM

By Robert Mann

By now, it seems clear that former Bobby Jindal aide Garret Graves will handily defeat former Gov. Edwin Edwards for the 6th district congressional seat. Graves will be going to Congress in January unless, as Graves suggested on election night, Edwards knocks him off.

Graves shouldn’t worry about his safety. Edwards knows he cannot win and doesn’t really want the job. He just wants the attention, which he will get over the next four weeks.

It’s really fairly simple math and it doesn’t add up to Edwards winning a congressional seat.

This is the 24th most Republican congressional district in the country. As I’ve noted before, Democrats — even those who did not serve eight years in a federal prison — can’t win in this district. Jindal and the Legislature drew the district map to make sure of that.

(I’m already hearing from Edwards’ disciples that their man can win if he can only point out Graves’ unethical and possibly illegal fundraising practices. So, you’re asking me to believe that a large group of conservative white Republicans, shocked over Graves’ alleged ethical lapses, will abruptly switch their votes to an 87-year-old Democrat who recently emerged from a federal prison, after serving eight years for racketeering and mail fraud?)

However, for those hopelessly optimistic Democratic souls who believed that Edwards ever had a chance, even against loony Lenar Whitney, allow me to demonstrate why the former governor will not be going back to Congress.

It’s a fairly simple equation.

First a bit of background: On Nov. 6, 53 percent of the district’s 486,358 voters went to the polls. Edwards got 77,852 of those votes, for 30 percent of the total, to Graves’ 70,706, or 27 percent. From my calculations, it appears Edwards received about 85 percent of the black vote (he underperformed Sen. Mary Landrieu in every majority black precinct I examined).

For purposes of our formula, we’ll assume that voter registration stays about the same (it will go up a bit, but we’ll base our calculations on the Nov. 1 numbers). We’ll also assume that turnout drops a bit, to 50 percent (it could be much lower, which wouldn’t help Edwards). We’ll also assume that blacks and whites turn out to vote at about the same rate (they did on Nov. 6).

With a 50 percent turnout (that ‘s 243,179 votes), Graves or Edwards will need at least 121,590 votes to win. That’s 50 percent of the turnout, plus one.

While Edwards didn’t get anything near Landrieu’s 94 percent of the black vote, let’s be generous and assume that he and Landrieu get the same votes on Dec. 6. Let’s give them both 95 percent of the black vote.

That’s 50,824 votes.

That means he only needs 70,766 more votes to win.

Another 20,711 voters classify their race as “other.”

If their turnout is 50 percent, then 10,355 of them will vote. Let’s be generous and give Edwards 60 percent of those votes. That’s an additional 6,213 votes.

He’s now only 64,553 votes away from victory!

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What the exit poll tells us about Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race

By Robert Mann

If you want to know why Sen. Mary Landrieu fared so poorly in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary? Or how Rep. Bill Cassidy lost so many votes to tea party challenger, Rob Maness? The answers are in the exit poll conducted on behalf of a consortium of national news media organizations.

The results show that Landrieu’s main problem was with white voters — white men, in particular.

When Landrieu won re-election in 2008, she garnered the votes of 32 percent of white men. This time, she got 15 percent of white men. Landrieu didn’t do much better with white women. In 2008, 34 percent of white women supported her. This time, that number dropped to 22 percent.

When it came to black voters, Landrieu held her own. Last time, she got 96 percent of the black vote; this time, 94 percent.

Edison Research did the exit polls for the news organizations that comprise the National Election Pool (NEP) – ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and the Associated Press.

Below, I’ve compared the exit polls from Landrieu’s 2008 re-election to this time. The differences are striking and demonstrate why she’ll have a hard slog over the next 30-plus days. (The screen shots are from the CNN.com site, hyperlinked above.)

Consider this from 2014:

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 1.18.00 PM

Compare to 2008 below. Notice Landrieu’s near collapse with white voters of both genders, particularly white men.


Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 1.17.45 PM


When it comes to race, Landrieu held her own with black voters. In fact, the black vote was a slightly larger percentage of the electorate in 2014 than in 2008, when President Obama was on the ballot. But, to make up for her collapse among white voters, Landrieu needed a strong turnout among black voters. She did not get it.

Here’s the exit poll numbers from 2014:

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 1.17.28 PM

Here are 2008 exit poll numbers on race:

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 1.17.12 PM


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