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Are Democrats giving up on the South? Some think so

The defeat Democrats suffered - especially in the South - last week has some wondering whether the party may give up on the region.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, hopes to do what only one other southern Democrat on the Senate ballot did last week, and that is win re-election.

"We have the race that we have wanted," Landrieu said to supporters on the night of the Nov. 4 election. "For months Congressman Cassidy has hidden from the voters of Louisiana.” 

“If you have stock in a TV station, you're going to make a lot of money over the next month. We need you, we win, if we win,” said Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy, who will face Landrieu in the December runoff.

But Landrieu has an uphill battle to win re-election, according to local and national political pollsters.

And the race is part of a much larger national political narrative: Will the national Democratic Party throw in the towel in terms of  the South?

Once the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said it was re-calibrating ad buys for Landrieu in the runoff, speculation over whether the party was abandoning the South became electrified.

“You get the appearance that they're giving up on the South, but you know, at one time it was the Republicans who were out in the wilderness, and it was the Democrats that were in control,” said Ed Chervenak, Ph.D., a University of New Orleans political scientist who has followed the mid-term election and Louisiana's Senate race closely.

But the Louisiana Democratic Party is trying to tamp down such suggestions.

"Our national partners are and will continue to be great resources for us over the next four weeks. Senator Landrieu has been in this position before and won, and she will do it again,” said state Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson.

Close to a dozen states are widely considered to comprise the southern states, and most were already pretty “red.”

“When we examine the South politically, we're looking at the 11 ex-confederates which include the Deep South,” Chervenak stated.

Only Virginia eked out a win for a Democrat in a squeaker of an election among the 11 southern states. And with Louisiana's Senate race undecided, Landrieu is called the last Deep South Democrat standing after Arkansas and North Carolina fell to Republicans Nov. 4.

The South remains the base of the Republican Party, with Republicans controlling many legislatures, including Louisiana's.

"Districts are drawn in a way that favors Republicans. If Republicans control that state, they're going to draw the districts in their favor,” said Chervenak.

“Statewide, we've been growing since 2008,” said Roger Villere, Chair of the Louisiana Republican Party.

And Villere expects that trend to continue.

“We're reaching out to the black community, we're reaching out in the Hispanic community, we're trying to expand our base,” said Villere.

Chervenak believes there could be a downside to having a totally "red" south. He says when it comes to the presidential contest, some candidates may choose to ignore some southern states.

"The state would be isolated from national politics. There's no need for campaigns to come down here, the electoral votes are already going to go Republican, and it's a safe red state and so we become isolated - so that's the real danger,” he said.

But now Landrieu hopes to defy the pundits and hold on to the Senate seat she first won 18 years ago.

"If she can pull this off, it would be an upset of epic proportions,” said Chervenak.


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