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|Earmarks represent problem for Alexander|
If the decision makers at the state and national Democratic parties have any intentions of fielding a candidate to oppose U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander in this fall's congressional elections, they had better get busy. Qualifying is July 9-11.
Elected to the House as a Democrat in 2002 to represent Louisiana's 5th District, Alexander, a Republican these days, seems to be a shoe-in for a fourth term in office. He takes care of business on the home front, and his voting record in Congress, by and large, mirrors the thinking of 5th District voters.
To the naked eye, though, the 5th District appears to be a seat that was crafted to elect a Democrat since Democrats outnumber Republicans among registered voters here. After all, Alexander was a Democrat when he was elected some six years ago, only to switch to the Republican fold at qualifying time two years later. He was easily elected after the party switch on two occasions.
Yet, the 5th District was carved out of one of the most conservative regions of the country. While Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 5th, a vast number of those Democrats have a track record of voting for GOP candidates, including Alexander and his predecessor, Dr. John Cooksey. Cooksey represented the 5th District from 1997-2003.
Though Alexander was a Democrat when he was first elected, his election to the House had more to do with his opponent's campaign self-destructing toward the end of the race than it did with ideological differences, or a Democrat's views striking a nerve among 5th District 5th voters. Thus, the Democrats would be wrong to believe the 5th is a Democratic district since Alexander was elected as a Democrat back in '02.
However, voting trends in the 5th District won't prevent Democratic Party leaders from viewing the congressional seat as a possible pick-up, or one that could be added to the Democrats' majority in the Congress. That's especially true in a year like 2008 where a sitting Democratic U.S. senator, Mary Landrieu, is locked in what is expected to be a hard-fought campaign against a well-financed Republican, John Kennedy.
The Democrats, including Landrieu, need a hyper-voter turnout on election day, particularly among their most loyal voters, African-Americans, or blacks. In other words, the Democrats need a Democrat on the ballot against Alexander to help fuel voter turnout to aid Landrieu's bid for a third, six-year term. They also need a Democrat on the ballot in the 5th District race to drive turnout for their presidential nominee, Barack Obama.
Something tells us, though, that the Democrats won't have any trouble energizing their base of support this fall. Obama, who is half black, will take care of that.
Leaving nothing to chance, the Louisiana Democratic Party has been engaged in a voter registration drive in a host of communities around the state, including the New Orleans area where the number of black voters plummeted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The goal of the voter registration drive?
Sign up as many black voters as possible for the fall elections.
While the Democrats may believe they're doing some good in registering more black voters, their efforts could backfire. If white voters believe blacks are registering at a fast clip, whites could become a bit energized themselves and vote in super large numbers come election day, too. That's more than possible; it's likely.
That's good news for Alexander, who would benefit tremendously from a hyper-active turnout among white voters in the face of an energized vote among blacks.
But that's assuming Alexander will field no opposition for the Republican nomination.
Remember, Louisiana recently adopted closed primary elections. Republican voters will pick their nominee in October prior to the November general election while Democrats will do the same. The winners in the primary elections will meet in the general election.
While it's unlikely Alexander will face any serious opposition for the Republican nomination, he's vulnerable.
"Earmarks," or specific federal appropriations for local projects.
Alexander believes in "earmarks."
Hard-core Republicans view "earmarks" as a waste of the taxpayers' money. They also say "earmarks" are bankrupting the country.
It's that constituency, the hard-cores, that Alexander must placate if he desires to represent the 5th District for another two years.
In the meantime, the Democrats simply represent a bump in a road in the 5th, regardless of race.