- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

Heavy black-voter turnout is expected to result in victory for Sen. Barack Obama in today’s Louisiana primary election, a factor analysts say makes the state one of the Democrats’ best Southern chances in November if the Illinois senator tops the ticket.

Pearson Cross, a professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, called Louisiana “neither a red state or a blue state. We”re more of a purple state,” noting that the state backed President Clinton in 1992 and 1996 but went for President Bush in 2000 and 2004.

Really I would say, in terms of a Southern state, we are a real good indication of the two-party strengths across the South,” he said. “What we may be is a good indication of the extent to which Obama may be able to make some inroads across the South.

Although some have argued that Hurricane Katrina, which took a heavy toll on New Orleans’ black population, pushed Louisiana into the red category, Mr. Cross said that is premature.

The best guess anybody can make right now is that the Democrats lost about 50,000 reliable voters statewide with Katrina, he said, a number that he deemed unlikely to affect many statewide races.

Blacks make up about 30 percent of the state’s voters and a larger share of today’s Democratic primary vote, which has 56 delegates up for grabs, though the state does not use a winner-take-all system.

Right now, African-American voters are kind of the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats. I expect Barack Obama to win the primary based on our high proportion of African Americans and also a certain amount of cultural dislike of Hillary Clinton, given the traditional state that we are,” Mr. Cross said. “Should he be on the ticket [for the general election], I think he has the potential to carry our state. I am not entirely convinced that Hillary would be able to do so.

Longtime Louisiana politico John Maginnis, who publishes a weekly newsletter on state politics and who has written books about notorious state political figures, including Edwin Edwards and David Duke, said that I think Obama has the best chance to win in Louisiana.

The state remains largely Democratic with about 1.5 million registered Democrats against 700,000 registered Republicans, but Mr. Cross said those statistics are somewhat deceptive because about one-third of state voters, or about 1 million, are independents.

Both houses of the state legislature remain dominated by Democrats and both the lieutenant governor and the attorney general are Democrats. But the election of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, the nation”s first Indian-American governor and Louisiana’s first nonwhite governor since Reconstruction, shows that voters there can mix it up when they want.

Mr. Obama campaigned before a crowd of about 4,000 Thursday at Tulane University. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has yet to visit the state, instead sending former President Bill Clinton on a sweep through several cities yesterday.

Voter turnout is not expected to be high today. The state had planned its primary for Super Tuesday, but moved it back a few days because that date coincided with Mardi Gras.

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