On Wednesday, President Obama gave a moving speech to the National Urban League in New Orleans. It motivated the beleaguered southern minority Democrats, who have seen better days, especially in the swing state of Louisiana. Here are the top five things you should keep in mind when following presidential politics in Louisiana.
1. A State Divided
Our state regularly switches parties - that's why it is a swing state. Our local politicians must be moderate and party loyalty is not very powerful. The city of New Orleans regularly swings left, while the remainder of the state - including New Orleans suburbs - regularly swing right. Likewise, what works in the southern portion of the state often falls flat in the northern half. Since Hurricane Katrina, the population of the state is more evenly distributed, with many families now living in the north with southern sympathies or even registered to vote in New Orleans. There remain many political unknowns.
2. Race Plays
Sadly, race is a big motivator in Louisiana, to both ends. Obama can pretty well lock the black vote in Louisiana, but the problem is registration and turnout. Romney will see some of the same support as McCain in 2008.
3. Morals Don't Play
Louisianians overwhelmingly don't associate morality with politics. Religion or morality-based smears, or displays of piety, will be money wasted in Louisiana. It's not that we aren't religious or moral people, it's that we are rather cynical about the lives of all politicians, and we are particularly suspicious of the pious. Look at Sen. David Vitter (R -La.).
4. Good Government Plays
Louisiana's economy is suffering, and real, good jobs are hard to find. Our education system is in the middle of a critical transformation, our health care system is breaking, and the Louisiana DMV is still a metaphor for purgatory. Recently, the New Orleans Police Department was found to be so terrible that the federal government must take over. After generations of political scandal, Louisianans are fed up with bad government; we want our bureaucracy to work or get out of the way. So we see Obama's programs cynically, and are attracted to Romney's small government initiatives.
5. Pandering Plans
Louisianans are weak for pandering. Talk about Katrina heroes, Saints, LSU, Cajuns, food and drinks and we will remember. We are a weird state with singular culture, and we appreciate anyone who takes a minute to understand what happens here. A moment's pause to eat Gumbo -- eat it right, at the right place -- will resonate with voters all over, of either affiliation.
Obama's decision to speak to the Urban League in the home city of Morial, the league's president (in the convention center that bears his name), after a bowl of gumbo in the French Quarter will work in Louisiana. Romney, it is your turn -- if you eat red beans and rice, be sure it's on a Monday!