I had a chance back in November to meet John Fleming’s campaign strategist. He also happened to be congressman Paul Broun’s as well. Both men were in Augusta, GA the night before the general election and I enjoyed discussing politics and strategies with them both. I was invited to go back to Athens for a meet and greet and general election party but I had to work and, unfortunately, could not attend. At any rate, the LA CD-4 campaign came up in discussion and we talked about the particularities of the district and Fleming’s low-profile candidacy to eventual frontrunner over Chris Gorman and Jeff Thompson who the retiring incumbent, Jim McCrery, originally endorsed. He was confident in Flemings chances, and I was confident in his assessment and expertise.
However, the district is peculiar especially at the micro-level and may easily mislead observers.
I’m originally from LA and CD-4 is my home district, still is. I have a pretty good feel of the people and the areas. Most of the district is rural and mostly white but does have larger prosperous cities like Shreveport (Democrat and urban went to Obama 51 to 48), Bossier City (Republican, and prosperous went to McCain 71 to 28), Natchitoches (went to McCain 53 to 46) along with two military bases, Barksdale AFB in Shreveport and Ft. Polk in Leesville (which is where I’m from in Vernon Parish and went to McCain by 76%).
During Jim McCrery’s time in congress he received very little opposition or a credible opponent. The district voted overwhelmingly Republican much like it has since most of the south began voting Republican during Presidential campaigns. However, local politics, and party affiliation is another matter. Most of the older residents are Democrats, or Dixiecrats. They are social conservatives, pro-Second Amendment, anti-abortion and religious. They vote Republican nationally because most of the candidates running as Republicans align more to their beliefs as opposed to the usual Democrat counterpart.
But when a self professed “Blue Dog” Democrat emerges from within the ranks like Paul Carmouche and immeasurable amount of support may exist that otherwise would have been readily available for the Republican. In other words, nostalgia may take grip and send them into a frenzy to elect one of their own. When considering that most Parish Sheriffs (a very capable vote getter and usually one of the bosses of political machines in any parish in Louisiana) are Democrats as well as District Attorneys and state house and senate members the potential for the District to edge out for Carmouche are significant.
The district went decidedly for John McCain. In all, outside of the sole pocket of resistance in Shreveport, Senator McCain carried CD-4 by 20 points over Obama. However, Mary Landrieu (D) managed a 3-point edge in the district over (recent Republican convert which may have ended up hurting him with the more astute voters) John Kennedy. So, the inclination to vote Democrat is present in the district. Remember, the macro-level is much different than what the numbers produce nationally.
What may end up offsetting the potential for a Democrat upset is the fact that Obama is out of the picture. He won the general election, and most Democrats who turned out on election day did so to vote for Obama. Carmouch, much like Jim Martin in Georgia, and other Democrats around the nation, enjoyed the residual of an energized bloc caused by the Obama candidacy. Carmouche will not have that this time and will need the black vote in Shreveport along with the Blue Dog white voters to win against Fleming. Ask Jim Martin what hurt him on Tuesday. He would probably agree with me. There will most likely be enough conservatives in the district that know that another congressional Democrat in Washington would not be a good thing. Too many associate Congress with Pelosi and that may prove too much even for a Blue Dog voter.
That is why the very popular Governor Bobby Jindal, retiring Jim McCrery and even Vice President Dick Cheney has stumped for Fleming and reminding voters of that fact. By the way, Cheney still remains popular in Southern conservative pockets like CD-4. What benefits Fleming is that he consistently conservative, has a wonderful record of social, professional and personal accomplishments without the political blow back that Carmouche is susceptible to as, at least in some regards, a spotty District Attorney.
In the end, these last few factors will likely produce a victory for Fleming. But, this is in no way a gimme as has been the case the last 20 years when Congressman McCrery represented the district. The potential for a surprise is should be enough to worry the Louisiana GOP and they are taking the necessary steps to prevent an undertow of support from sweeping this election away.