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Why Louisiana could prolong Romney’s Southern slide

at 03:36 PM ET, 03/22/2012

Brad Coker, the president of Mason-Dixon polling, offered a thoughtful counterpoint to our piece this morning on why Louisiana may be more hospitable to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney than other Southern states.

We asked him to let us post it to the Fix, and he agreed.

While Coker didn’t necessarily disagree with the premise that Romney could exceed expectations in the Pelican State, he made some very interesting counter-arguments to our notions that Romney’s strong performance in western Mississippi (in that state’s March 13 primary) could translate across the Mississippi River into North and Central Louisiana, and also that the state’s many Catholics might vote against Santorum, as they have in other states.

Here’s what Brad wrote (and be sure to check out our piece from earlier today here):

The East Louisiana-to-West Mississippi connection isn’t likely to show up.
If you study history, the Mississippi side of the river is where all the river port towns are – Vicksburg, Natchez and Greenville. That is where the wealthy lived during antebellum times, and there remain a number of upper-class whites in those towns built around the shipping industry. The Louisiana side of the river is flat farm land that is sparsely populated, and there are no ports or city/commercial centers. It is rural and poor.
I also think Rick Santorum will do better with Catholics in Louisiana than elsewhere. Louisiana Catholics are much more devout than those in the Northeast and Midwest. They are more like evangelicals on social issues and vote more on social issues than Catholics elsewhere. Louisiana is one of only a few states where a sizeable majority favors making abortion illegal. Key to this, however, is whether these Catholics registered as Democrats can vote in the GOP primary.
On that note, though, keep in mind that Louisiana is a closed primary. That could help Romney, since many rural conservatives, such as Cajuns in the parishes of Southern Louisiana (commonly referred to as “Acadiana”), are registered Democrats. Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia were all open primary states where anyone could vote. Since Louisiana is closed, that will lock out a substantial number of voters and weight the electorate more favorably to the silk-stocking Republicans in the New Orleans area, the college-educated in Baton Rouge (Louisiana State University) and the oil business/country clubbers around Shreveport. Think Bob Livingston, Richard Baker & Buddy Roemer.
 
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