For Republicans to win control of the Senate next year, top officials in both parties say, all paths to a majority have to go through Alaska and Louisiana. In addition to being crucial in determining Senate control, the Democratic incumbents in these two battleground states share the same political and policy vulnerabilities.
Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu won reelection by 52 percent in the 2008 Democratic wave buoyed by President Barack Obama’s victory. Alaska Senator Mark Begich, even with those same Obama coattails and an assist from Justice Department officials putting their thumbs on the scale in his favor, was barely able to knock off longtime Republican incumbent Ted Stevens — 47.7 percent to 46.5 percent.
Since these Democratic wins, however, Republicans in Louisiana and Alaska have completely taken over the state governments — legislature and governors’ mansion. Today Democrats don’t hold a single statewide post in Louisiana. They couldn’t even find a credible contender to put up against Governor Bobby Jindal, who cruised to re-election without breaking a sweat in his 2011 landslide.
Given the positions that the Obama White House and national Democrats have staked out on issues important to Louisiana and Alaska, it’s easy to see why Democratic statewide office holders have become an endangered species in these two key states.
Energy production is vital to both. Louisiana has more oil rigs off its coast than any other state, and is the third largest energy producer. Alaska is right behind it, the fourth largest oil producing state. Louisiana and Alaska also consume the second and third most energy per capita, respectively.