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Analysis: Lessons to learn from Louisiana election

Analysis: Lessons to learn from Louisiana election

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — With the midterm congressional election in Louisiana in the rearview mirror, political watchers, campaign strategists and potential candidates can glean a few takeaways.

President Barack Obama is a winning political argument if you're a Republican and an albatross if you're a Democrat. While state residents love the bearded men of "Duck Dynasty," they aren't necessarily planning to let the family regularly pick their members of Congress. And the successful white Democratic politician is starting to look like an endangered species.

Not all the races from last week's ballot are decided. Several are headed to Dec. 6 runoffs, most notably races for the U.S. Senate and two U.S. House seats, one representing northeast and central Louisiana and the other representing the Baton Rouge region.

But the postelection analysis is underway. The ballots already cast showed:

—Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is in trouble. Fifty-eight percent of voters in the election chose someone other than the 18-year incumbent. That's never a good sign. She's the last Democratic statewide elected official in a state where voters regularly pick Republicans for those jobs. And that clout that she heralded on the campaign trail took a nose dive when she became a member of the minority party.

—Louisiana may not be Washington, but Obama matters here, too. The president isn't just unpopular in Louisiana; that unpopularity drives voting decisions. Forty-three percent of Louisiana's voters said one reason for their decision in the voting booth was to express opposition to Obama, according to exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. That's why Landrieu's Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, repeatedly linked Landrieu to Obama in the primary and why he'll keep doing so now. It's also a sign that Louisiana's elections have moved in line with the partisan feuds of the nation.

—Money matters in politics and can drive results. Ask Rob Maness, the unsuccessful Republican candidate and tea party favorite in the Senate race. Maness had the backing of some high-profile political movers and shakers and managed to drum up nearly $3 million for a campaign that started as a grassroots movement. But that couldn't compete with the $11 million Cassidy raised or the millions the GOP establishment poured into helping Cassidy.

Meanwhile, in the race for the Baton Rouge-based 6th District seat, Garret Graves, the GOP candidate facing Democratic former Gov. Edwin Edwards in a runoff, brought in over $1 million for his campaign, more than the Republicans who finished in the third and fourth places had combined. Graves could run more TV ads, put out more mailers and invest more in campaign infrastructure. In a tight race with a crowded field, that helps a candidate get noticed.

—The TV reality show "Duck Dynasty" is popular, but it isn't a kingmaker. Republican U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister got noticed with the shout-outs from the Robertson family, but then he poured a bunch of his own money into the race to help get him elected to the northeast Louisiana-based 5th District seat. A cheating scandal destroyed his re-election hopes, and he didn't make it into a runoff. The Robertson family abandoned McAllister in this latest election. But family patriarch Phil Robertson's new favored GOP candidate, his nephew Zach Dasher, didn't make the runoff either, despite a last-minute advertising push featuring Robertson. Dasher narrowly missed the runoff spot, falling 1,860 votes behind Republican Ralph Abraham, who will face off with Democratic Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo on the Dec. 6 ballot.

—Tea party backing isn't enough to win an election. Exit polling showed 37 percent of Louisiana's voters support the tea party. That's a sizable segment of the electorate, but not the majority needed for a victory. Tea party support can boost a candidate, but that can't be the only selling point. Just look to Maness, Dasher and state Rep. Lenar Whitney, an unsuccessful candidate in the 6th District race. Each touted endorsements from national tea party organizations. None of them made it to the runoff.

Those postelection messages will feed into strategizing for next year's ballot, with its elections for governor, six other statewide elected positions and all 144 legislative seats.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte covers Louisiana politics for The Associated Press.

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