Congratulations to Congressman-elect Don Cazayoux, new Representative of Louisiana's 6th District, and to all who had a hand in his election. The Sixth District, which voted for Bush 55-43 in 2000 and 59-40 in 2004, will be represented by a Democrat for the first time since the Dixiecrat era.
This was a terrific win for the party, for a number of reasons. First, it is always exciting and inspiring to win an election in such strongly Republican territory. Only 15 Democratic Representatives out of 235 hail from more GOP-friendly districts than Louisiana's 6th, and taking another seat on such red turf is yet another indicator that Democrats are in the catbird seat heading into November. This is the second special-election victory in a former Republican stronghold within the span of three months, and it was nearly accompanied by another victory in the crimson First District of Mississippi (and may yet be, come the May 13 runoff).
We had no real business winning this district, but we managed to do so anyway, by running a candidate who was a good fit for the district, by wisely allocating national party resources to help that candidate compete, and by simply being lucky enough to face a genuine nutcase on the Republican side.
Needless to say, this is a major feather in the cap of the DCCC, and a terrific blow to our Republican counterparts. NRCC chairman Tom Cole must be losing his breakfast, especially on the heels of the loss in IL-14, and facing another possible loss in an even redder district (MS-01). On our side, the DCCC did a fine job; they fended off the combined forces of the NRCC, Freedom's Watch, and the Club for Growth, and came out on top.
The Club for Growth has been backing losing candidates for some time-they're far more interested, it seems, in having doctrinaire nutters on the Republican ticket than in actually winning a majority-but this is a particularly bad black eye for Freedom's Watch, a group which has already taken a lot of hits. Having targeted LA-06 as their first big experiment-apparently, backing Woody Jenkins was the first thing their leadership could agree on as a priority for this cycle-Freedom's Watch looks positively impotent. They were supposed to be the scary new kid on the block, the shadowy Republican hit squad doing all the GOP's dirty work this election cycle. But if they can't swing a special election in an R+6.5 district, they're going to have the devil's own time swinging the presidential election.
As reported, the GOP's strategy in this election was to tie Cazayoux to national Democrats like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. I should think that the results speak for themselves, and that they indicate that this strategy has failed. From the Wall Street Journal:
Don Cazayoux's victory against Woody Jenkins to represent Louisiana's Sixth District, a seat held by Republicans for decades, has further boosted Democrats' optimism heading in to the fall elections.
Not only were Democrats able to increase their majority in the House, but Mr. Cazayoux emerged the winner despite a multimillion-dollar national and local effort to nationalize the race by defining him as a liberal Democrat in lockstep with Mr. Obama.
At the very least, their efforts to demonize Cazayoux by linking him to Obama proved a double-edged sword. Although Woody Jenkins did outperform expectations in several areas of the district, and it's possible that that was due to the NRCC's attempts to link Cazayoux to Obama, it was certainly negated by increased black turnout in East Baton Rouge, which appears to have ultimately provided Cazayoux with his margin of victory. In other words, the GOP lost at least as much by alienating black voters as they may or may not have gained with these attacks.
DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen had a nice comment on these tired old Republican tactics:
"For the second time this cycle, Republicans were reminded that ‘all politics is local,’" said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen , the DCCC chairman. Saying that "House Republicans tried to nationalize this election," Van Hollen stated that the GOP "used false and deceptive special interest smears and funneled nearly a million dollars into a district that Republicans held for more than three decades."
Van Hollen claimed that Cazayoux "won by focusing on the concerns of LA-06 voters — good paying jobs, affordable health care, and better education."
Demonizing the national Democrats is in no way going to be enough to win them this election. They went hard after Obama and Pelosi, as they have gone after Bill Clinton and Al Gore and Howard Dean and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton in the past. And they have nothing to show for it, except a humiliating loss in a former Republican stronghold.
If running against national Dems in a district where Kerry got 40% of the vote in 2004 isn't enough to save their crappy candidates, it won't be enough to save them anywhere. The GOP had better come up with something new if they want to start turning things around.
Unfortunately, according to Minority Leader John Boehner, they are counting on us to do their jobs for them. Essentially, the GOP is relying on the Democratic presidential battle to drive voters away from the party; they know very well they're cooked in downballot races if it does not. Their last hope for this cycle is that they can use national Democrats to sink the local candidates on the ballot, and the LA-06 results are a strong indicator that that won't work very well.
One final irony from this election is that the GOP loss can, in a sense, be thrown at the feet of one of the party's rising stars, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. For it was Jindal who backed Republican Jim Tucker to serve as Speaker of the Louisiana House, a decision which essentially gave Tucker the speakership despite a 53-50 advantage for Democrats in the House.
The Democratic candidate whom Jindal passed over was Don Cazayoux. It is likely that if Jindal had selected Cazayoux to serve as speaker, he would not have elected to run for the U.S. House, and Republicans might well still hold this seat.
Be careful what you wish for, Governor Jindal.