Southern Comfort for Democratic Senators?

Speaking of Mary Landrieu: in yet another first-day offering from The Upshot, number-crunching analyst Nate Cohn suggests that the left-for-dead reputation in Washington of Landrieu and fellow southern Democrats Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan may be more than a bit premature. For them and for Georgia’s Michelle Nunn (and if you consider Kentucky part of the South, for Alison Lundergan Grimes), some help from Republican miscues would be extremely helpful. But there are positive factors, too.

For one thing, as everyone has noted who writes extensively about the “midterm falloff” problem for Democrats, in the past the pro-Democratic demographic group least prone to “falloff” has been African-Americans. On occasion (e.g., the Deep South in 1998, and Virginia just last year), black voters have bucked the trend almost entirely. There’s sort of an assumption that black turnout is driven by the presence or absence of Barack Obama on the ballot, but the trend-lines are deeper than that, particularly in the South where Republicans are more feral and race is never completely absent from politics.

In any event, I would by no means write off the whole region for Senate Democrats. There’s this tendency to think of them as soft touches because they are not typically loud-and-proud progressives. But as southerners know, politics is a blood sport in the region, in part because partisan fights are often over very basic things like the existence of progressive taxes and public schools, not to mention crazy conservative memes like land-use planning being a UN plot. So while 2014 will be difficult for southern Democrats, they’re not going to lose by default.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.