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Good try, Bobby

By A Correspondent in Louisiana
Last updated on: November 16, 2003 21:29 IST
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In the aftermath of Kathleen Blanco's win, over Bobby Jindal, in Saturday's run-off for the post of Governor of Louisiana, newspapers across the United States worked on what it all meant.

The fact that a woman was about to move into the governor's mansion, in a state where white males have had a lock on that privilege for over 130 years, dominated the headlines.

The real question was why -- and the answers depended on which paper you read. The Washington Post was one among many papers that suggested that Blanco's blistering attack, late into the campaign, on Bobby Jindal's record as the state's secretary of health had much to do with helping voters making up their minds. This section of opinion holds that Jindal, who ran a clean, issue-oriented campaign, erred in not responding to the attacks.

The Times Picayune elaborated on that theme; it added that Blanco's final televised appearance, which included an emotional moment in which she tearfully recalled the death of her son in an accident at work, put a human face on the Democratic candidate that contrasted with Jindal's appearance of a crisp-talking, number-crunching policy wonk.

Though many news reports spoke of the Blanco attack ads, specifics were thin on the ground. A story in The Advocate filled in the blanks, talking of how the Blanco camp used a partial quote from a doctor, now dead, to suggest that Jindal was long on number-crunching but short on basic humanity.

In another, analytical, piece, the Times Picayune pointed out that white voters, given a choice between an immigrant and a woman, appeared to have opted for the lesser of two 'evils'.

On a related note, The Advocate indicated that the black legislative run-off elections, taking place on the same day, had a cascading effect favoring Blanco. This line of thinking held that the black community was energized enough to turn out for the legislative run-offs; that this drove up the black voter turnout in key areas, and that in turn favored Blanco.

In another story, The Advocate touched on the Blanco attack ads and quoted politicians from both sides of the divide -- including outgoing Governor Mike Foster, Jindal's mentor -- as saying that Jindal should have hit back; that failure to do so in the final stage of the campaign was the defining moment.

The unusual run-off, in a state that came within a whisker of electing former Nazi sympathizer and former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke to the governor's post, the faceoff between the 32-year-old son of Indian immigrants and a 60-year-old Cajun grandmother attracted unusual media attention, both at home and abroad.

It was a hare and tortoise kind of race, with Jindal making all the media running. Newspapers focussed almost exclusively on him, in the days leading to the run-off, dubbing him a young wunderkind and rising star of the GOP.

In the furor, Blanco went largely unnoticed. One of the few profiles of the victorious candidate appears in USA Today, which suggests that Blanco came across as a trustworthy candidate with no skeletons in her closet -- a huge asset in a state that boasts one governor who was assassinated and another who is now spending time in a federal prison.

Also Read:

The Jindal Campaign -- Complete Coverage

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A Correspondent in Louisiana