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?
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