President Obama didn’t do terribly well as a candidate in Louisiana. In 2008, Obama lost the state by over 18 percentage points. Four years later, he fared a little better, but only a little, losing Louisiana by 17 points.
As recently as the 1990s, Bill Clinton won the state – twice. What changed? Part of this is the obvious result of the Deep South becoming more much more conservative than it was two decades ago, but Louisiana’s incumbent U.S. senator offered another possible explanation.
Louisiana Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu said Thursday that the issue of race is a major reason that President Barack Obama has struggled politically in Southern states.“I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans,” Landrieu told NBC News in an interview. “It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”Noting that the South is “more of a conservative place,” she added that women have also faced challenges in “presenting ourselves.”
It’s important to emphasize that Landrieu, speaking to NBC’s Chuck Todd, went beyond identity politics. “One of the reasons that the president’s so unpopular is because he put the moratorium on off-shore drilling. remember?” she added. “After Macondo. And our state was furious about that. Now he could have shut down the BP operations but he didn’t, he shut down the whole Gulf. When you shut down the whole Gulf of Mexico it puts a lot of people here at risk and out of business. That’s number one.”
But it’s the senator’s comments on race that are generating the most attention.
The comment prompted a fiery response from Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who called it “remarkably divisive.”“She appears to be living in a different century,” he said in a statement.
An AP report quoted state Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere calling Landrieu’s remarks “insulting to me and to every other Louisianian.”
Remember, Landrieu specifically said, “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African American” – an assessment that, at least at face value, doesn’t seem especially uncontroversial.
Landrieu is in a tough re-election fight against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R). A December runoff in the race appears likely.