5.04.2008

Loss of LA-06 sends the NRCC reeling

For the second time in two months, Democrats picked up a staunchly conservative House seat last night. Conventional wisdom and a stream of polls had made Democrat Don Cazayoux the favorite, but that should not obscure the fact that this is a district that Bush won with 59% in 2004 and that, until the beginning of April, few people truly believed Democrats could do anything but force the GOP to play defense. Cazayoux's victory gives the Democrats an unlikely victory in red territory and sends the RNCC (that invested nearly $1 million in the race) reeling.

The race ended up being much tighter than we expected, with Woody Jenkins quite literally in the lead until the last minute (relive the incredibly suspenseful 6-minute sequence here); the DCCC's choice to spend an astronomic $1.2 million most likely helped put Cazayoux over the edge, 49% to 46%.

House control and open seats: Democrats now control 235 seats to 199 for Republicans and they will have an opportunity to increase their majority yet again in 9 days in the runoff of MS-01. Republicans now have to pick up 28 seats to regain a majority; considering that they are on their way to losing seats rather than gaining any, this is an impossible feat. The loss of LA-06 underscores that the GOP's main problem is the high number of open seats they have to defend. In an election year in which turnout patterns are favoring Democrats, Republican risk a catastrophe in the open seats they are holding. If they were unable to hold IL-14 and LA-06 despite heavy spending in both districts (spending they will not be able to replicate in the fall), will they be able to even compete in NY-25, NM-01, OH-15, NJ-03 and NJ-07?

Flawed GOP candidates: One crucial thought that should reassure Republicans is that their defeats in both IL-14 and LA-06 were first and foremost due to the flawed candidates they presented. In Illinois, Oberweis is a discredited and unpopular candidate associated with smear tactics; in Louisiana, Woody Jenkins is a controversial figure associated with figures like David Duke and that many voters think is too far to the right of the mainstream. His emphasis on socially conservative issues only resonated so far, even in this staunchly conservative district. Jenkins' unpopularity made it more difficult for the GOP to nationalize the special election, which to the end remained a referendum on the Republican candidate.

The future of LA-06: While IL-14 is likely to stay in Democratic hands in the fall, the road ahead is likely to be tougher for Cazayoux than for Foster. Oberweis is still the Republican candidate for the November general election in Illinois, but Jenkins will not necessarily go for a rematch in the fall, allowing the GOP to contest the race with a more presentable candidate. Furthermore, an African-American Democratic state representative is threatening to run as an independent in November; if he does, this could splinter the Democratic vote enough to boost the Republican towards a victory.

The presidential race: Republicans had sought to tie Don Cazayoux to national Democratic figures, starting with Barack Obama. The race had thus become a test of the down-the-ballot impact Obama would have in November (note that the GOP has gone further with this strategy in MS-01, for instance using footage of Reverend Wright, so that race will be a more interesting test than LA-06). So how did Obama do? As most elections of this primary season, yesterday's results were inconclusive. The DCCC and many bloggers are claiming that Cazayoux's victory proves Obama will not be a drag in November, while the NRCC issued a press release stating that "this should come as a warning shot to Democrats" that "the elitist behavior of the Democratic front-runner and the liberal and extremist positions that he and his fellow Democrats in Congress have staked their claim to, do not appear to be as salient as they once hoped."

On the one hand, there is no question that the race tightened over the past week; two weeks ago, the NRCC was on the verge of abandoning Jenkins to his fate and a SUSA poll showed Cazayoux up 9%. Yesterday, Cazayoux barely held on. The attacks the GOP aimed against him succeeded in dragging down his numbers. And, as I noted above, Republican efforts to nationalize the race were undermined by Jenkins' unpopularity.

On the other hand, Cazayoux did win so there is only so much associating him to Obama did to his numbers -- and this is in a district the Democratic nominee will have no hope of carrying in November. Furthermore, the fact that this is a strongly Republican district means that any attempt to tie Cazayoux to any national Democrat was assured of driving down his number.

Had Cazayoux collapsed or had he held to a high-single digit lead, the result would have been read more closely by superdelegates. But LA-06 is not likely to meaningfully impact the presidential race from this gray in-between area that also characterizes so many of the Democratic primaries (see March 4th, April 22nd...). Keep in mind, however, that Cazayoux now becomes a superdelegate; he is still uncommitted and is thus likely to start receiving a lot of phone calls...

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3 Comments:

  • Cazayoux is a far right Democrat that wouldn't fare well in blue states. He has a high rating from the NRA and is a staunch anti-abortion advocate. It would be pretty hard to link him successfully with Obama or Pelosi. A six point drop might be more accurately contributed to the sheer number of attacks and not so much the content. Still in all, we'll take him.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 04 May, 2008 20:44  

  • "Democrats now control 235 seats to 199 for Republicans and they will have an opportunity to increase their majority yet again in 9 days in the runoff of MS-01. Republicans now have to pick up 28 seats to regain a majority..."

    If the GOP wins MS-01 in 9 days, that'll give them 200 seats. If they pick up 28 more seats in November, that'd give them 228 to the DEMs 207, much more than needed for the majority. I believe it was meant to say "Republicans now have to pick up 18 setas to regain a majority" (assuming they win MS-01; otherwise it's 19 seats needed).

    By Blogger KELL, At 04 May, 2008 22:50  

  • "I believe it was meant to say 'Republicans now have to pick up 18 setas to regain a majority'..."

    Erm, the *seta* I know are traditional Japanese shoes. Very comfortable for walking around it, but I hardly see how picking up a few them would help the Republicans come November.

    By Anonymous Jean-Pierre, At 07 May, 2008 07:10  

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