The kerfuffle over House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's (R-La.) 2002 appearance at a conference organized by white nationalists hinges on his awareness of the group's motivations and, as importantly, his relationship with David Duke, the group's staunchly white creator.

At the white-nationalist Web site Stormfront, the site's ironically-named proprietor Don Black offers that Scalise, like other Louisiana politicians, "naturally wanted the Duke vote." That is, the votes of people that backed Duke during his various bids for elected office. Why else would Scalise appear at the gathering, if not to lock the down white-pride vote?

But as Dave Weigel notes at Bloomberg, the idea that Scalise was pandering to a key voting constituency simply doesn't hold up.

Scalise first won election to the state House in 1995 with more than two-thirds of the vote. In 1999, he won by a slightly tighter margin -- but still by more than 30 points. In the vernacular, these races were "blow-outs." Admittedly, the 2003 election -- the one closest to Scalise's 2002 appearance before Duke's "European-American Unity and Rights Organization" -- was different. In that, Scalise was unopposed.

In 2007, he ran for the state Senate, winning again with more than 60 percent of the vote. It was only when he ran for the U.S. House in a 2008 special election that he faced a real challenge. He finished first in the primary, leading the nearest competitor by more than 20 points, then won the runoff by 17 points. That was as close as it got.

And that's five years after the EURO appearance. Granted, he considered a 2004 bid for the U.S. House, but never actually ran, instead backing now-Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

But the more important point here is that there was no Duke vote. The last time Duke ran for elected office in the state was in 1999, the year Scalise won reelection. Duke was running for that same 1st congressional district seat, and placed third. The district covered a big chunk of the northeastern part of the foot part of Louisiana's boot, snaking its way down into Jefferson parish -- home of the New Orleans suburb that Scalise represented.

In 1999, David Duke got less than one-fifth of the vote in that congressional district, and got about the same in Jefferson Parish. But in precincts where Scalise and Duke were both on the ballot, Scalise got more votes in every single case. The congressional race had more candidates, but the idea that there was a "Duke vote" that Scalise needed even in 1999 doesn't hold water.

And that was it for David Duke. The 28,000 people who'd voted for him in 1999 probably weren't still an organized constituency in 2002. Other members of Duke's base from earlier, statewide races might have still been loyal to the former Klan member, but it seems hard to believe that Scalise would have considered this an essential part of his electoral considerations. Far more likely, as the Post reported Tuesday, is the idea that Scalise was asked by an apparent friend to make an appearance.

One more point: Jefferson County was 23 percent black in 2000. Louisiana on the whole was more than 30 percent black. These voters are almost all Democratic, one can assume, but for someone starting to think about running for statewide office, that's a much bigger number to worry about than wavering adherents to an also-ran pariah.