She also said that women have struggled in the South, but her comments on race got much more attention -- including a brief airing on "NBC Nightly News" -- because that's how it is with race.
First thing to note: This is basically third-grade social studies kind of stuff, right? Remember how that whole "Southern strategy" later prompted Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman to apologize in 2005 at an NAACP event?
By the '70s and into the '80s and '90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.
The racial history of the South has played out at the ballot box. It exists. Landrieu isn't breaking any new ground here. She is however, breaking an unwritten rule in politics -- it's best not to talk about race, unless it's about how far we've come.
Her opponents have pounced on her response, calling it divisive and suggesting she's calling her own state racist.
"Quite frankly, Sen. Landrieu owes the people of Louisiana an apology for relegating them to nothing but racists and sexists," her opponent, Rob Maness, a tea party challenger, said in a statement.
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), her other opponent, said the opposition to Obama has more to do with policy than race.
“I gotta tell ya, when people in Louisiana look at Obamacare and his regulatory regime and him going after their job, that’s the reason they oppose him, that’s the reason they oppose her,” Cassidy said. “She supports him 97 percent of the time. We’re not racist; we just all have common sense.”
Of course, read another way, Landrieu's comments could be geared toward increasing black turnout. But she also has to get white support for a winning multiracial coalition. Southern Democrats have fared increasingly poorly among whites (see: the Southern strategy), and it's hard to see Landrieu's comments helping her navigate an already-tough tightrope.