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|Landrieus, Obama and the Big Easy|
A couple of weeks ago it appeared that Sen. Mary Landrieu had pulled off the big one.
The big one concerned Landrieu securing some $300 million in federal funding for Louisiana's beleaguered Medicaid program in exchange for her support for the Senate health care reform bill.
On the surface, though, it would appear the $300 million in one-time monies represents crumbs compared to the deal Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska struck. A so-called moderate Democrat like Landrieu, Nelson convinced the Democratic leadership that the Cornhusker state needed $100 million per year in perpetuity to aid its Medicaid program if the leadership expected him to support the health care bill, too.
As it turned out, Nelson was holding the proverbial trump card, meaning he represented the final vote the Democratic leadership needed to pass the Senate health care bill on Christmas Eve. After all, we shouldn't expect U.S. senators to work on Jesus' birthday.
While it appeared that Nelson had one-upped Landrieu on the shakedown front, a man far more knowledgeable than me about Louisiana politics observed that Landrieu possibly secured a bit more than $300 million for her "yea" vote on the health care bill.
What more, you ask, could Landrieu have possibly extracted from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and/or President Obama for signing off on the most important legislation to date for the Obama administration?
The long and short answer to that question involves speculation, and that speculation concerns the mayor's race in New Orleans where Mayor Ray Nagin is barred from running for re-election because of term limits. The primary election in the Crescent City is a little more than a month away, Feb. 6.
Here in God's country the New Orleans mayor's race hasn't received much play in the media. Suffice it to say that the free-for-all to succeed Nagin is a hot one. A host of candidates are running including Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a sibling of Louisiana's senior senator.
I'm not suggesting Sen. Landrieu demanded that Obama endorse brother Mitch in the mayor's race (plus the $300 million) in exchange for her support for the Senate health care bill. It's certainly plausible, though, since Sen. Landrieu's most recent political decision cast the entire Landrieu family in a negative light politically in Louisiana in general. Remember, New Orleans is another state in itself. What plays well in the "bowl" doesn't necessarily reflect the thinking of Mr. Average in Small Town, Louisiana. Mr. Average tends to be a bit more skeptical than your average resident of the Big Easy.
A candidate for mayor four years ago, Mitch Landrieu waged a respectable campaign against Nagin. Nagin won not necessarily because he had done a good job as mayor, but more so because Landrieu was hesitant to respond to Nagin's negative campaigning.
The demographics of New Orleans were different four years ago, too. The city was more "white" than it is today in light of the number of blacks who have returned to New Orleans as it continues to rebuild following Hurricane Katrina. Those demographics of today make it almost impossible for a white man to get elected there.
Obama could make a difference, though.
Or could he?
Yet, that's all speculation. All we know for sure is that Sen. Landrieu made a bad deal compared to the one Sen. Nelson worked out.