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Incumbency Matters: The Joseph Cao story

Jefferson Cao

Plug -2.8 into the Swingometer and you’ll see 5 districts swing. Louisiana’s second district was the fifth closest seat won by a Republican in 2008, and that Republican was Joseph Cao. He beat William Jefferson, the now-convicted felon who received bribes and kept the cash hidden in his freezer.

By election day Jefferson had already been caught, and the money had already been found. Why was the election so close? Incumbency matters.

Zoom ahead to the present. Most analysts have assumed Cao would at best have a difficult race this year, and at worst be crushed by the next Democrat on the ballot. Well, we now have a name for the most likely Democrat to face Cao in November: Cedric Richmond. So pollster Verne Kennedy of Market Research Insight took a look at the race.

That poll shows Cao almost doubling Richmond’s support, putting him ahead 51-26 (MoE 5). Even this early in the cycle, I’m amazed that a Republican in such a left-leaning district could poll over 50%, even if he’s working hard to keep his constituents happy and earning 54-9 (fifty-four to nine) favorable-unfavorable split. Incumbency matters.

All is not good news for Cao, though. Kennedy is making a specific assumption in this poll: He believes that, says Hotline, “turnout among black voters will top out at 57%” and weighted the results accordingly. So whether we believe this poll depends heavily on whether we believe that assumption.

For reference, Congressional Quarterly says that 64% of the district identifies as black. 57% would be under-representative, but not unreasonably so given the historically low turnout of that group in that region.

Crossposted from Unlikely Voter

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