Saving Mary From Herself

Mary, meet Harry.

Mary is Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who unexpectedly finds herself in a runoff against a practically unknown Republican. How can an incumbent U.S. Senator who had a war chest of $6 million and a 20 point lead in the polls, running as a Democrat in a state that has never sent a Republican to the senate, be in such a pickle?

This is where Harry comes in. He's Harry Truman, the Give-'em-Hell Democrat who once said: "If you give the people a choice between a Republican and a Republican, they'll choose a Republican every time." Harry had little use for namby-pamby Democrats who vote like Republicans.

Which brings us back to Mary. She's not exactly been a Harry Truman Democrat. In fact, her tv ads have bragged that she's voted with Bush 74 percent of the time -- more than some Republican senators! These votes include the big, gut-check ones, like backing Bush on his multibillion-dollar tax giveaway to the rich. While this is a fashionable stand in wealthy Republican zip codes, it's less than appealing to the majority of the Louisiana people, who are working stiffs and poor folks. Indeed, more than 40 percent of Louisianans have household incomes of less than $15,000 a year.

So, since Mary didn't seem much interested in standing with them, they showed little interest in standing with her on November 5. Only about a third of the state's electorate voted at all, and less than a third of those who did vote were Democrats. In Louisiana's unique system, there are no primary elections, so all candidates run together in the general election. There were nine candidates in Landrieu's race, including three Republicans. While she led, she didn't get a majority, and this week she faces a tough runoff in which the key question is whether she can convince the low-income folks to come out and save her. Harry would have appreciated this irony.

Harry also would say: Come on, Democrats, be Democrats -- and give the majority of people a reason to want to vote for you!


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