If the outcome of the U.S. Senate race was determined by most hours and hardest work put into the campaign trail, Mary Landrieu would have won by a landslide. But that was never the point in Louisiana's runoff election.
Landrieu, a third-term Democrat, traveled the state tirelessly before the runoff a week ago, talking herself hoarse in pursuit of re-election. Meanwhile, Republican Bill Cassidy skipped events that had him mixing and mingling too regularly with either the general public or the press. He didn't need to bother.
The drubbing that Landrieu received in the election made it plain that Louisiana's politics have moved past Landrieu. That's why Cassidy, a Baton Rouge congressman, had far less work to do in his campaign to defeat her, an effort he won handily by 12 points by consistently tying Landrieu to unpopular President Barack Obama.
At one point in the final days, Landrieu seemed exasperated by the state of the political scene, saying she'd repeatedly described her work for Louisiana over 18 years while all Cassidy wanted to talk about was national politics: "I have a very good record. Records should matter."
Landrieu is a relic of what seems to largely be disappearing in Louisiana and across much of the South: the white, moderate Democrat in elected office.
Only a decade ago, Democrats held all of Louisiana's statewide elected positions and had the majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature. When Landrieu exits office, Republicans will occupy all those positions.
The GOP also has the majority of members on the Public Service Commission, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Supreme Court. Only one U.S. House seat in the state is held by a Democrat. It's the first time since Reconstruction, more than 130 years ago, that Louisiana Democrats haven't held a U.S. Senate seat.
Louisiana has joined the rest of the solidly Republican Deep South — even if the state's voter registration misleadingly appears to give Democrats an edge. That's just because in a state where candidates run against each other regardless of party, changing voter registration doesn't need to be a priority.
"We're now totally Republican. And I accept that and bow to it," Democratic former Gov. Edwin Edwards said as he acknowledged his first-ever election loss, defeated in the Baton Rouge-based 6th District congressional race by Republican Garret Graves.
In an election night statement celebrating the GOP sweep of congressional runoffs, state Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere described Louisiana as "well on its way to becoming red to the roots."
"It is amazing that in just 42 years, a state that was completely controlled and dominated by Democrats at every conceivable level could now be such a Republican stronghold, especially if you look at the progress made just in the last decade," Villere said.
His counterpart for the Louisiana Democratic Party, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, simply seemed out of step in her post-election statement posted on Lamar White's liberal political blog CenLamar.
Peterson described the party as "unquestionably stronger" than four years earlier — despite Landrieu's defeat and Democratic losses in both U.S. House runoffs, for the 5th and 6th District seats. She pointed to Democratic mayoral victories in Shreveport and Alexandria and other local election wins.
Her comments seemed disconnected from the sentiment of a majority of voters. Unless Democrats can figure out a message or a strategy that wins statewide races, it would be difficult to suggest the party's somehow doing well in Louisiana.
One Democrat has announced his intention to run for governor in the 2015 election, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite. He's vying for the seat against three Republicans so far: U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle. Gov. Bobby Jindal is term-limited.
With a military background and from a family of sheriffs, Edwards is running as a moderate Democrat, of the variety that used to regularly win statewide offices in Louisiana. But this latest election cycle would seem to suggest such a victory now is a long-shot.