On paper, Louisiana is considered a red state; one which leans conservative and votes Republican. But if this is true, there is something of an anomaly where its elected officials are concerned.
"You have to wonder why, out of two U.S. Senators, we still have a Democrat. How can you be a red state and have Mary Landrieu as your senior senator?" Elliott Stonecipher asked members of the Minden Lions Club Thursday.
Stonecipher is a demographer, pollster, political pundit and campaign adviser who has had first-hand views of Louisiana politics since, at age 24, he helped in the successful state Superintendent of Education campaign of J. Kelly Nix.
Louisiana's political landscape has come full circle since the days of former Lt. Gov. Bill Dodd who, in 1975, believed the state didn't have Democrats or Republicans. In those days, people were either pro- or anti-Long, Stonecipher remembered Dodd saying.
As times have changed in the state, Stonecipher said Dodd's point today might be that we're not all Democrats, we are Republicans or conservatives. That may play a big part in the November senate election between Landrieu and Republican U.S. Rep. Dr. Bill Cassidy, he pointed out.
"On November 4 we will have a turnout that will be every bit a challenge to Mary Landrieu as the race in 2008 favored Mary Landrieu," Stonecipher said.
"Mid-term elections have a completely different bias in terms of demography. The voters tend to be more conservative, more Republican and decidedly older. Her last election in 2008 was a presidential turnout, an extraordinarily biased Democratic election."
While Stonecipher would not predict an outcome, he did point to keys for a Landrieu repeat and a fourth term in the senate.
"If Mary wins re-election it will be because an extraordinary number of Republicans and Independents vote for her," he said.
But, he added, another important statistic shows the incumbent faces a different set of circumstances than at any other time in her elected career.
"In 2000, she was four years into her first term and that's the base year to look at in how voter registration has changed," Stonecipher said. "There are 250,000 or so fewer registered Democrats today than in 2000. Democrats still have a plurality of registered voters, but put Republicans and Independents who tend to vote conservatively and they are the majority."
Even the New York Times, a paper Stonecipher called "as much in her corner as any outlet in America," says Landrieu's chances at re-election are around 35 percent. "They are almost ready to write this off."
Demographically the state has changed and it would seem that Louisiana has moved away from Landrieu as senator, "but it has nothing to do with whether she can win, ironically enough," Stonecipher said.
Stonecipher said polls show the Landrieu-Cassidy race a dead heat. And with a third candidate in the race (Rob Maness), a December 6 runoff is a possibility. A runoff could create an interesting set of circumstances, he added.
"If there's a race on December 6 and the Democrats need one seat in the senate to maintain control, a lot could happen. All eyes will be on Louisiana... we would have Hollywood types coming, it would be a real show," Stonecipher said.
"I'm still waiting for Obama, close to election day, to call a news conference, have Mary there and announce, that because of her influence, we're going to build the Keystone pipeline," he continued. "It makes sense for that to happen since she is chair of the Senate Energy Committee, if that's what it takes for Democrats to keep the senate."