Ghosts of Hurricane Katrina Color Louisiana Primary

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Sen. Barack Obama visits Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, Feb. 7, two days before the state's primary. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Obama

Sen. Barack Obama visits Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, Feb. 7, two days before the state's primary.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton greets supporters at a campaign rally for wife Sen Hillary Clinton on Feb. 8, 2008. Clinton is speaking at five rallies across the state ahead of Saturday's primary. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

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b clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton greets supporters at a campaign rally for wife Sen Hillary Clinton on Feb. 8, 2008. Clinton is speaking at five rallies across the state ahead of Saturday's primary.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

When 24 other states were voting on Super Tuesday, New Orleans residents were celebrating Fat Tuesday.

But now it is Louisiana's chance to participate in this year's frenzied primary season. Along with Kansas, Nebraska and Washington, Louisiana is holding a presidential nominating contest on Saturday. With Louisiana's 56 delegates at stake, Democratic candidates are finally paying attention, particularly since the state has rarely held a meaningful presidential primary.

At a campaign appearance at Tulane University on Thursday, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama spoke to roughly 3,000 college-age supporters. He talked about the issue still most important to people in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast: rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina and protecting the region from future storms.

While New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has not campaigned here recently, she sent her top surrogate: her husband, Bill Clinton. In a speech Friday at Dillard University, a historically black institution, the former president laid out Sen. Clinton's plan for rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

In many ways, it mirrored Obama's proposals.

The Clinton campaign has issued a statement, in which it criticized Obama for initially voting against a bill that gave Louisiana a bigger share of revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling. Obama did eventually vote for the bill when it was part of a larger legislative package.

On the Republican side, Arizona Sen. John McCain appears to have sewn up the nomination. Still, his rival, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is expected to do well in the state.

But even with the tight race on the Democratic side, it is still unclear how many voters will participate in Saturday's primary in Louisiana.

The number of Democratic voters has dropped, says Ed Chervenak, a political scientist at the University of New Orleans.

Moreover, Louisiana Democrats also do not mind voting Republican. In October, they elected Republican Bobby Jindal as governor and also elected four other Republicans to statewide offices.

Chervenak says one factor in the resurgence of Republicans in Louisiana is the state's demographic changes.

Since Katrina, some 100,000 voters have disappeared — 60,000 from the New Orleans area.

It is unclear if that could make a difference in November, when Louisianans vote in the general election.

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