Cazayoux continues to cover his bases with Obama endorsement

Rep. Don Cazayoux won his seat less than five months ago, but the quiet endorsement he received from Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNew Hampshire Rep. Kuster endorses Buttigieg Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall Ray LaHood backs Biden for president MORE last week shows just how quickly politics can change.

The Louisiana Democrat distanced himself from the Illinois senator during his May special election, insisting, amid GOP efforts to tie them together, that he had “not endorsed any national politician.”

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His acceptance of the backing now is a nod to the changing terrain of his reelection campaign.

The conservative Democrat shocked many when he won the special election in a GOP-leaning district. But a stronger Republican foe this time around and the Independent candidacy of state Rep. Michael Jackson, a black Democrat whom Cazayoux beat in the special primary runoff, had some sounding Cazayoux’s death knell.

But Obama’s endorsement should help him cement his base, if he plays it right. The district is about 33 percent black, meaning a strong defection of traditionally Democratic black voters to Jackson would likely be fatal for Cazayoux.

Democrats note that the opposition ads tying Cazayoux and Mississippi special election candidate Travis Childers (D) to Obama didn’t do much good earlier this summer, given that the Democrats won both races.

Still, Louisiana political analyst John Maginnis said, Obama’s support could be a double-edged sword in Cazayoux’s district.

Cazayoux’s campaign made little effort to disseminate the Obama news widely, and didn’t even issue a press release.

“You’re probably going to see it more in direct mail to black households,” Maginnis said. “It’s a fine line to walk — you want the benefit of Obama’s endorsement among black voters, but you don’t want to call too much attention to that among white voters.”

Cazayoux’s campaign released a poll Monday showing him with a 16-point lead over state Sen. Bill Cassidy (R), 48-32. Jackson pulled up the rear at 9 percent.

In a district that voted more than 60 percent for President Bush in 2004, though, Cazayoux knows he has a tough race on his hands, and counting on 57 percent of voters to vote for Democrats might be a stretch.

“We’re going to continue to approach it the same way,” Cazayoux said. “I try to run scared regardless and will continue to work hard. Obviously, the most gratifying aspect of the poll was we’ve got pretty substantial support from all walks of life.”

Cazayoux appears to have benefited from a post-hurricane bounce in his latest polling, which was conducted between Sept. 17 and Sept. 21 by Anzalone Liszt Research.

Cazayoux had a 60 percent favorable rating and only 23 percent unfavorable, and nearly two-thirds gave him strong marks for his response to Hurricane Gustav. He also led Jackson 59-26 among black voters.

The poll had Cazayoux rising by five points and both Cassidy and Jackson dropping four since the race was tested in July.

However strong Cazayoux appears now, the race is in doubt enough that national Democrats went up with an ad buy this week, hitting Cassidy for supporting Social Security privatization.

{mospagebreak}The buy amount was not available as of press time.

Cassidy said he is already trying to get the ad pulled, because it misrepresents his position. He points out that he just went up with his first TV ads around the same time Cazayoux’s poll was launched, and he accused the congressman of running a push poll.

Cassidy, a physician, is trying to finish a job that the GOP candidate in the special election, Woody Jenkins, couldn’t.

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Jenkins, a well-known former Senate candidate, became notorious in the special election for his personal baggage. The new GOP candidate said Jenkins suffered from lukewarm support from the business community and a wide gender gap.

“There’s a way to speak to people now which affirms that women are coequal,” Cassidy said. “Fairly or unfairly, it was perceived that Woody did not communicate that. That may be unfair, but it is what it is.”

Whatever Jenkins’s faults, Cassidy’s goal is the same: to paint Cazayoux as too far left for the district.

This time, though, the anti-abortion rights and pro-gun Cazayoux is getting the reverse treatment from the left, as Jackson positions himself as the “true Democrat” in the race.

Jackson, who would likely need more than just the black vote to win a plurality, insists he’s going after the votes of all true Democrats. He said Cazayoux’s lack of support for Obama in the past showed that he was not in touch with his party.

Much of Jackson’s motivation, though, has been a vendetta against the national Democratic Party, which he saw as partial to his opponent in the runoff.

“It was some motivating factor,” Jackson said. “It’s very clear that Don got all the financial support that someone would get, being supported by the party. … But we knew back when we decided to run in March that we’d be running again” in the general election.

And Obama’s endorsement in this race is also significant because the Illinois senator has been somewhat stingy with his congressional endorsements.

The Democratic presidential nominee supported another white Democratic incumbent who was threatened by a black candidate in Rep. John BarrowJohn Jenkins BarrowRepublican wins Georgia secretary of state runoff to replace Kemp The most important runoff election is one you probably never heard of Our democracy can’t afford to cut legal aid services from the budget MORE’s (D-Ga.) primary and also backed Rep. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterScientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Omar knocks Republicans for appearing to bring phones into highly-classified SCIF room Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year MORE (D-Ill.) in his special-election win in March. More recently, he has supported congressional candidates Darcy Burner in Washington, Jim Himes in Connecticut and Bob Roggio in Pennsylvania.

Other Democrats, including Congressional Black Caucus members Edolphus Towns (N.Y.) and Carolyn Kilpatrick (Mich.), expressed their desire for Obama’s support in their primaries, but to no avail.