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Harlan Closing in on Scalise
Northshore businessman Jim Harlan, a conservative Democratic businessman, is crowing about a recent poll that shows him narrowing the gap between him and freshman Congressman Steve Scalise, a Republican. The poll was taken by The Kitchens Group Sept. 18-21. It shows Scalise leading, but only by 11 points — down from a huge 53-point lead Scalise had in June. More important, says the Harlan campaign, Scalise now polls significantly below 50 percent. The latest poll shows Scalise leading Harlan by a margin of 42 percent to 31 percent. In June, Scalise led by a margin of 68 percent to 15 percent — before Harlan began running TV ads touting his business credentials and attacking Scalise. Equally important, says Harlan spokeswoman Stephanie Stanley, Scalise's "favorable" ratings have dropped below 50 percent. In June, the congressman was rated favorably by 61 percent of the voters surveyed, but recently that number fell to 44 percent, with 24 percent giving him unfavorable marks. Harlan faces fellow Democrat Vinny Mendoza in Saturday's Democratic primary. Scalise has no GOP opponent. He will face the Democratic nominee on Nov. 4. — DuBos



Landrieu a Katrina Victim?
The PBS news division weighed in with a re-election analysis of Louisiana senior U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, and it wasn't a pretty picture for the Democrat. In a story update posted to the site of NewsHour with Jim Lehrer last week, the writer suggests that the 2005 storm season uprooted the Bayou State's political structure and will continue wreaking havoc during the ongoing fall elections. "Demographic changes and a steady march to the right by the post-Katrina electorate in Louisiana" spell trouble for Landrieu, according to the PBS story. Cobbled together using several local news sources, the story wrangled quotes from two cornerstones of Louisiana politics to drive its point home:

"Politically, we're starting to look a lot more like Mississippi and Alabama," T. Wayne Parent, a professor of political science at Louisiana State University and author of Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics, told NPR. "We used to pattern pretty well with Ohio or New Jersey in survey research," Parent said. "But now we pattern a little closer to our Southern states to the east."

Landrieu's margins of victory in 1996 and 2002 came from Orleans Parish, where voter numbers have dropped since Hurricane Katrina, according to The Times-Picayune. "The storm's destruction caused severe damage to many Democratic-leaning neighborhoods. Many of those residents eventually relocated, mostly outside of Louisiana. In total, about 50,000 registered Democrats left New Orleans since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," John Maginnis, who writes the newsletter LaPolitics, told NPR.

Actually, it's not certain that most black voters who fled Katrina relocated out of state. According to local demographer Greg Rigamer of GCR & Associates, many black voters who fled Katrina have relocated elsewhere in Louisiana. Moreover, Rigamer says, total statewide black voter registration today — both in raw numbers and in percentage of the statewide registration — is very close to what it was in 2002, the year in which Landrieu beat Republican challenger Suzy Terrell by 42,000 votes. Rigamer says those numbers give Landrieu an excellent chance of winning re-election.

GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy, Landrieu's opponent, manages to land a few sentences in the NPR piece, but the story is mostly a rehash of the challenges posed to Landrieu. Overall, it offers a reminder of just how regionalized this race is going to become in the next few weeks. — Alford and DuBos

Staffed Up For Disaster
Gov. Bobby Jindal continues to garner praise for his handling of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and the key to his success may have been some strategic hires the governor made earlier this year. Few would have suggested then that Jindal was building a Category 5 administrative team, but some say the analogy is warranted. Administratively, Jindal survived Hurricanes Gustav and Ike by having the right human resources in place and, more importantly, knowing how to manage them. "What a novel idea, especially in government," says a giggling Merrie Spaeth, CEO of the Dallas-based Spaeth Communications, a business consulting firm that specializes in crisis management, among other things. "This is a case study of hiring people with skills, rather than people who want to be politically correct. That was also a lesson learned from Katrina. But if you have the right people in place and are actually listening to them, the management part isn't all that difficult sometimes."

For secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, Jindal brought aboard Alan Levine, who had experience working in the health-care field during hurricanes as the former administrator at the North Broward Hospital District in Florida. The governor hired Mark Cooper as the director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Cooper was previously the deputy fire chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department and managed a $1 billion budget. After Hurricane Gustav made landfall, Jindal decided to launch a program to distribute nearly 400 generators to essential service providers, including pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores. Rather than having a staffer take on the task, he handed it to a rainmaker, someone who could get phone calls returned — Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle. Coincidentally, Angelle is a holdover from the administration of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The decision had an immediate impact.

Additionally, Jindal's point person on the ground in New Orleans was Paul Rainwater, the new executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. On paper, it looks as though Jindal shipped a bureaucrat off to ground zero, but Rainwater is a combat-decorated lieutenant colonel in the Louisiana National Guard who was deployed to both Kuwait and Iraq. He also was the chief administrative officer for the city of Lake Charles and stood knee-deep in the mess that was Hurricane Rita. In the aftermath of Gustav and Ike, there was even a role for the governor's wife, Supriya Jindal. She visited a number of distribution locations and soup kitchens around the state, no doubt sending reports directly back to Louisiana's CEO. She has also played a key role in food drives for the hurricane-impacted areas. — Alford

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