- - Friday, October 31, 2014

Sometimes a gaffe, the fancy French word to describe politicians who inadvertently say what they really think, can really hurt. Mary L. Landrieu, struggling to hang on to her seat in the U.S. Senate, delivered a beaut the other day in New Orleans.

Chuck Todd of NBC News asked why she, a privileged member of an old Louisiana political family, was having so much trouble winning a fourth term? And why is Barack Obama so unpopular in Louisiana and the South?

She could have knocked that one out of the park, and almost did: “He put the moratorium on off-shore [oil] drilling, remember? Our state was furious about that. Now he could have shut down the BP operations, but he didn’t, he shut down the whole Gulf. When you shut down the whole Gulf of Mexico, it puts a lot of people here at risk and out of business.”

Then, showing the effects of late nights, of too many McBurgers choked down with too much bad coffee, she gave the Gaffe Patrol a target at Twelve O’clock High: “I’ll be very honest with you,” she said. “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.” Women as well as blacks have faced challenges in “presenting ourselves.” A partisan divide has opened with “Fox News on one side, and MSNBC on the other, and people just fight for the center. But I’ve been in the center. I’ve never moved.”

Campaign savants were speechless. How could a politician smart enough to win three terms in the U.S. Senate be so dumb as to insult a majority of her constituents? Gov. Bobby Jindal (of East Indian ancestry) pounced. “She appears to be living in a different century,” he said.

She was already trailing Rep. Bill Cassidy, her Republican opponent, and the informed wisdom says she needs 35 percent of the majority whites to make a patchwork re-election strategy work. She was hurt by the disclosure that she has no permanent home in Louisiana and recently built a large house on Capitol Hill. “If she actually lived here,” said Rob Maness, a Tea Party independent candidate, “she would know that the reason why she and President Obama are so unpopular is because of the big-government agenda they have imposed on Louisiana’s working families.”

If no candidate gets a majority Tuesday, the top two survivors proceed to a December runoff. One campaign savant thinks “Mary has cooked herself good,” and may not force a runoff. Sometimes, the Gaffe Patrol gets a lot of help.

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