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Sunday | December 08, 2002

More thoughts on Louisiana victories

Funny how things work out sometimes.

Had Landrieu garnered 50 percent of the vote in November, her victory would've been lost amongst all the chatter about a "GOP wave". Rove and Bush would still be invincible. Democrats would still be dejected, searching for a winning message and strategy.

But thanks to Landrieu's inability to avoid a runoff, the environment has changed overnight. Because despite the full onslaught of the Bush/Rove juggernaut, Democrats were able to keep their red-state Senate seat, as well as pick up a House seat in an overwhelmingly GOP district.

The White House will try to spin the loss as a product of local issues, but of course that's not true. Bush's team practically moved into the state. Terrell's campaign was run from DC by Rove and his top lieutenants. With no other races to worry about, the GOP's political team put everything they had into their "Operation Icing on the Cake". Yet the best of the GOP, given the headstart of a popular president and conservative-leaning state, was unable to beat the best of the Democratic Party.

And the press is running with the story:

NY Times: In a rebuff to President Bush's political power and personal prestige, Louisiana voters today rejected Suzanne Haik Terrell, his hand-picked candidate, and retained Senator Mary L. Landrieu, a freshman Democrat.

Slate: Everybody reports that Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana fended off GOP challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell to win her second term in the Senate yesterday. According to final returns, Landrieu won 52 percent of the vote, compared to Terrell's 49 percent. Though Republicans still maintain control of the Senate by a 51-49 vote, it's considered a major loss for Bush, who campaigned heavily for Terrell in the final weeks of the campaign.

Associated Press: Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu beat back a fierce Republican challenge led by President Bush and won a second term yesterday, giving her party a midterm consolation prize that limits the GOP's Senate majority to 51 seats.

ABC News headline: La. Sen. Landrieu Wins Despite Bush Bid -- Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana Retains Seat Despite Bush Effort to Widen Majority

And for the hometown take, the Times-Picayune: Landrieu's victory puts a damper on President Bush's surprising mid-term election run in which his campaigning is credited with helping Republicans hold on to the majority in the House and regain the Senate.

State and national Democrats will certainly draw some solace from the fact that they were able to stop his roll in Louisiana.

Landrieu said her victory was the result of "an incredible grass-roots" effort and suggested that predictions of a Bush-driven GOP wave swamping Louisiana were premature, especially with Democrat Rodney Alexander winning a razor-thin majority in the heavily GOP 5th Congressional District in northeast Louisiana, which has been held by Republican John Cooksey for the past six years.

"People can see the dangers of partisan, poison politics," Landrieu said in declaring victory at the Fairmont Hotel. "Tonight a great light has gone on in the world, a great light has gone on in the United States, because we turned the lights on. The light has shown that the Democratic Party is alive and well and united."

Clearly, this election was about Bush, yet Louisiana voters, sensing they were going to be sold out by the Bushies (on sugar, especially), re-elected a Senator into the minority in the Senate. That makes Landrieu's victory that much more impressive. AND, given the election was a repudiation of Bush, it's clear that Louisiana is well and alive as a possible blue state in 2004. The notion of Bush worship across the south has been exposed, and it's clear the right Democrat can take Louisiana.

And on a wider note, it's clear that Democrats can take the president head-on and win. People may still have a positive view of the president, but when Democrats focus on those Bush issues that hurt their personal interests, voters have no trouble turning against him. Indeed, if they'll do that in Louisiana, they'll do it elsewhere.

Landrieu learned her lesson in one month, running to the left of her Nov. 5 campaign and emphasizing her differences with Bush. While the Democratic Party can be maddeningly obtuse sometimes, I have no doubt they've learned their lesson as well. The GOP's superiority complex just took a major hit, while Rove's ego has been deflated.

Again, let's all thank Landrieu's inanbility to avoid the runoff. Without her inept first campaign, we'd all still be wallowing in self-pity. Now we know what to do to beat Bush and his "handpicked" GOP candidates.

Things should (politically) quiet down during the holidays. Of course, Bush will release lots of bad news knowing people will be too busy shopping to notice, but these next few weeks should be the calm before the storm: the early primary schedule ensures that just about the entire Dem primary campaign will be waged in 2003. And, as a bonus, we have state races in Mississippi and Kentucky that the GOP has seriously targeted.

Operation "Wipe that Smirk off of Bush's Face" has begun.

Posted December 08, 2002 09:59 AM | Comments (21)


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