Just days before the midterms, Republicans are rushing in to condemn Sen. Mary Landrieu for comments she made Thursday regarding President Obama’s unpopularity in Louisiana and in the south, and the Democratic incumbent is not backing down.
This week, in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Landrieu said race, played a significant factor in Obama’s struggles.
“I’ll be very, very honest with you,” Sen. Landrieu said. “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”
Landrieu is currently locked in highly contentious Senate race against her GOP challengers, Rep. Bill Cassidy and tea party candidate Rob Maness.
Cassidy is currently leading Landrieu by five percentage points, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average. If no candidate crosses the 50% threshold there will be a runoff election, which prognosticators think is likely.
And it wasn’t just race that makes Obama less popular in Louisiana, Landrieu told Todd: “One of the reasons that the president’s so unpopular is because he put the moratorium on off-shore drilling. Remember?” Obama lost in Louisiana in both 2008 and 2012.
Seeking to clarify, Sen. Landrieu said in a follow-up statement, “The main reason the president has struggled here is because his energy policies are not in line with the people of Louisiana. We are a pro-drilling, pro-oil, gas state. The offshore moratorium was extremely unpopular and, in my opinion, wholly unwarranted. It made a lot of people angry and put many businesses at risk … In addition, the South has not always been the friendliest or easiest place for African-Americans to advance, and it’s been a difficult place for women to be recognized as the leaders we are. Everyone knows this is the truth, and I will continue to speak the truth even as some would twist my words seeking political advantage”
Meanwhile, Cassidy and several prominent Republicans have seized on Landrieu’s comments, quickly turning her observations into a partisan morass and political opportunity to rouse the base. Appearing on Fox News by phone, Cassidy said Sen. Landrieu’s remarks were “insulting to me and to every other Louisianan.”
Republican Governor Bobby Jindal also waded into the debate when he took to Twitter to say “Senator Landrieu’s comments are remarkably divisive. She appears to be living in a different century. Her comments clearly imply that President Obama and his policies are unpopular in Louisiana because of his ethnicity. That is a major insult by Senator Landriue and I flatly reject it.”
Gov. Jindal also appeared on Fox News, saying Landrieu owed the state an apology.
Yet several prominent African-Americans have weighed in with bemusement regarding the backlash.
“If anything, this is an understatement,” msnbc contributor James Peterson told msnbc’s Chris Matthews. Peterson pointed to the criminal justice system, education and the controversy over ending early voting as examples to support Landrieu’s claim. “What she said is so understated when you look at the data around race … she just spoke the truth,” he said.
While appearing msnbc on Friday, journalist Michelle Bernard called Landrieu’s remarks “factually correct,” and writer Zerlina Maxwell applauded the senator for “telling it like it is.”