Louisiana has not elected a statewide Democrat since 2008. Even powerhouse Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) lost in 2014 by 12 points in a runoff (Louisiana has a rule that if no candidate receives 50% of the vote on Election Day, the race goes to a runoff). In 2015 however, Democrats have a chance to win the Gubernatorial race. State Sen. John Bel Edwards (D) is a West Point graduate running against U.S. Sen David Vitter. Edwards is leading Vitter by double digits in some polls because of Vitter’s prostitution scandal (Vitter also was eviscerated in an ad where he skipped a vote on veterans to talk to the “D.C. Madam” and the ad said Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots). Vitter responded with an ad of his own featuring Duck Dynasty Stars but Vitter appeared wooden in it. While no poll has shown Vitter ahead, off year elections can have unpredictable polling so Edwards is not guaranteed to win. This post however will show the benchmarks Edwards must hit to win on Election Day (November 21st).
These percentages show the percentage that Edwards needs to win. The results were calculated using the 2010 Senate results (to factor in Vitter’s regional strengths) and the 2014 runoff election (to factor in recent trends and runoff voting patterns).
Sidenote: if Edwards is underperforming some of the benchmarks early in the night, it does not necessarily mean he will lose. It means the benchmarks are a bit off, that Democratic parts of the county report late or that areas where Edwards will overperform have not reported.
Here is a map of the benchmarks:
Dark Blue = Edwards 55%+
Light Blue = Edwards 50%-54%
Light Red = Edwards 45%-49%
Dark Red = Edwards 44%-
Here is a link to all the county benchmarks: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Md_WF9iBrFDl05wQkqPt6eXu-ewgbMirwEqLMUha4aI/edit#gid=0
New Orleans Metropolitan Area:
This area is the most Democratic part of Louisiana. New Orleans is the major Democratic area while the suburban Parishes St. Tammany and Jefferson are strongly Republican in national elections. St. Tammany frequently votes Republican in statewide elections too, it has a strong evangelical population and is fast growing. Jefferson County is more of a swing county in close statewide elections. Landrieu lost it by six points in 2014 despite losing by 12 statewide. It has a large African American population and the white voters are not as uniformly Republican as they are throughout the rest of the South. At the same time, Vitter is from the New Orleans area which may give him a few extra points but combined with Jefferson County’s slow but sure Democratic trend, it is the main bellwether to watch.
Baton Rouge Metropolitan Area:
This is the 2nd most Democratic part of Louisiana. Despite being historically Republican (East Baton Rouge Parish voted Republican in 2003 when Louisiana elected a Democratic Governor,) East Baton Rouge Parish now leans Democratic. There is a large African American population there while the suburbs are evangelical and conservative. The suburban Parishes are Ascension and Livingston. Ascension formerly was a Republican leaning county (Bush in 2000 won it by 10,) but now it is heavily Republican with Romney winning 66% there. Livingston is even more Republican, Romney won more than 80% of the vote there. East Baton Rouge used to lean Republican but is trending Democratic. Edwards will need to capitalize on that trend and win at least 58% there.
There are two divides in rural Louisiana. The northern part of the state has rural southerners similar to Arkansas and Mississippi who vote heavily Republican. The southern part though is different with Catholic French descendants and this area is called the Cajun Country. While in 2012 it voted heavily Republican (Cameron County voted 87% for Romney,) it is open to voting for statewide Democrats, especially Cajun ones. The Cajun voters kept Louisiana competitive after many southern states started voting Republican but they have trended Republican recently too. Winning coalitions for Democrats years back would be winning enough African Americans and Cajuns. Edward’s coalition now is more likely to be focused around urban areas instead of the Cajuns but they will still play an influential role.
"The further north you go the further south you get" is what they say about Florida, they meant the same about Louisiana. The northern part of Louisiana is the most culturally southern part with few Cajuns and mostly evangelical Protestants. The politics here are closer to Mississippi than they are to the rest of Louisiana. Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) won here after voters did not want to support Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) due to his race but Landrieu and Cassidy are both white. The opening for Edwards here though is in Caddo Parish (Sherveport) which is trending Democratic and turning out the African American voters in the counties surrounding it. Bossier Parish on the right side is suburban and heavily conservative so Edwards need Caddo to outvote it. The voting here is extremely racially polarized but winning campaigns such as Landrieu in 2008 has traditionally made inroads in the parishes around Sherveport (except Bossier which is heavily Republican) so Edwards must win those. Clairborne Parish nearby is also a good bellwether. Keeping margins down in these heavily Republican evangelical counties is crucial too because many voters there may be turned off to Vitter by the prostitution scandal.
So when you are watching Louisiana on election night ask these questions:, who is ahead in Jefferson Parish? Is East Baton Rouge offsetting Republican margins in Ascension and Livingston Parishes? Is Edwards keeping Republican margins low in Republican leaning southern Louisiana Parishes such as St. Martin and Calcaiseu and most importantly, who is hitting 50% in Clairborne Parish?