Mary Landrieu is fighting for her political career in Louisiana today in the state's Senate runoff, but the reality is Senate Democrats are done in the South for quite some time, and unlike House races, you can't blame Senate losses on gerrymandering. FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten sums up Landrieu's coming demise:
William Thompson of Kansas and Wesley Jones of Washington are former U.S. senators — you get a pass for not recognizing them, they’ve been dead for more than 80 years. But if you’ll be watching Saturday’s Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican Bill Cassidy in Louisiana, remember their names.
These senators sustained the greatest margin of defeat for an elected incumbent (not running on a third-party ticket after a primary defeat) since the direct election of senators began in the early 1900s. Thompson lost by 30 percentage points in 1918, and Jones by 28 points in 1932.
Landrieu probably won’t overtake Thompson and Jones, but she could be headed toward a top 10 historic defeat.
The FiveThirtyEight model projects her losing the runoff 99.8 percent of the time, and by a 57.8 percent to 42.2 percent margin. That’s mostly based on polling, which can be unreliable in a low-turnout runoff.
What else do we know? The early voters in the Louisiana runoff have been vastly more Republican-leaning than early voters in last month’s election. And while whites were only 65 percent of early voters in November, they have been 70 percent for the runoff. Registered Republicans were only 34 percent of early voters in November, but they’ve been 39 percent of early voters for the runoff.
If this change in voter makeup holds on Saturday, it’s obviously very bad news for Landrieu. Assuming she wins the same percentage of white voters as Democratic candidates did in November, she’ll lose the runoff by roughly 60 percent to 40 percent, or about what the model forecasts.
Landrieu's loss will leave Florida's Bill Nelson as the last remaining Democratic Senator from a Southern state, and Mark Warner if you count purple state Virginia. Both these senators are conservative as well.
Warner survived, and Bill Nelson is good until 2018, but outside of that in 2016 it's going to be a lot harder than liberals are willing to believe to gain seats in the South.
And yes, Landrieu is toast. Let's be honest here. She sold the party out for Keystone XL and will lose by an even larger margin as a result. No sympathy for her, but definite sadness for the Democrats. We've got a lot of work to do if we ever want to win either chamber of Congress back.