Katrina Exodus Could Change Political Mix
Most demographers predict that the population of the rebuilt New Orleans will be much different–whiter and richer, most notably–than the pre-Katrina makeup. That portends well for Republicans, despite the current view that the national Republican leadership did a poor early job in hurricane response. Of course, the poor and blacks have to go somewhere, which will have a ripple effect elsewhere.
Population shifts caused by the exodus of hurricane victims from the Gulf Coast could have ripple effects for years to come in Louisiana political races and perhaps beyond. How big depends on how many people stay away, which ones stay away and where they end up putting down roots. The early thinking is that the evacuees least likely to return to their homes in Louisiana may be the poorest Ã¢€” and thus, Democrats for the most part. That would hurt the party in a state where Republicans already were making inroads.
If the lion’s share of those leaving settle in Texas, that could work to the advantage of Democrats in President Bush’s home state.
“I’m believing that the greatest displacement occurs among those who are traditionally Democratic voters,” said Elliott Stonecipher, an independent political consultant from Shreveport, La. “Based on sheer demographics, those who are Republican voters have the wherewithal and, we believe, the will to go home and rebuild,” he said. Stonecipher sees the New Orleans area losing Democratic voters and a political network that was of great benefit to Sen. Mary Landrieu and other Democrats. “On Election Day there is a well-oiled machine that knows how to turn those votes out from specific neighborhoods and in specific ways,” Stonecipher said. Landrieu was elected in a 2002 runoff by a 52-48 margin, a difference of just 42,000 votes. New Orleans was the base of her support. “If that’s compromised, that could be a problem for her,” said John Maginnis, who publishes a political newsletter in Louisiana.
Landrieu is not up for re-election until 2008. Kathleen Blanco, the Democratic governor, who also won by a 52-48 margin, faces re-election in 2007. Ray Nagin, the Democratic mayor of New Orleans, is up for re-election in February. No one knows if the city could even hold an election by then.
Holding an election shouldn’t be that difficult. The problem is having a meaningful constituency by then.