"Focus on your record! Your record is good!" Powell tells Landrieu.
"You would think people would be focused on that," Landrieu says, shaking her head, "but it's tough."
A couple of hours later and an hour down the road in Baton Rouge, a reporter asks Landrieu how she feels about her party abandoning her, and her defiant facade cracks a bit. "I am extremely disappointed in the Democratic Senatorial Committee," she says. "This is a fight worth fighting. I mean, I have a very good record! Records should matter!" It doesn't seem to occur to Landrieu that it is precisely her record—of supporting an unpopular president and voting for all his major initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act—that voters object to.
Landrieu's soft voice takes on a pleading cast as she contemplates the electorate that, having sent her to the Senate three times, now seems poised to cast her out. Why can't they appreciate all she's done for them? "People say they want somebody to break the gridlock," she says. "I've been breaking it up and busting it up for 18 years! I mean, what is not clear about this? They want politicians that are honest, I've been honest! I've served with integrity!"
For a moment, Landrieu seems like she might go off the rails completely. Then she regains her composure, thanks the press, and walks away. As she leaves, she tells a supporter she is going to have dinner with her son.
* * *
In what are likely the waning days of Landrieu's career, she has become an exotic specimen—the Last Southern Democrat. She is a political version of Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who died alone in the Cincinnati Zoo exactly 100 years ago. Like passenger pigeons, who were once so numerous they constituted a plague on the land, Democrats once dominated this region. Even after the civil-rights era and Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy began to realign the parties in the 1960s, individual Democrats at the state and federal level still won plenty of elections. But that has changed dramatically since Barack Obama was elected in 2008.
As recently as 2007, Democrats controlled both houses of the Louisiana legislature and seven of nine statewide offices, including the governorship. Today Republicans have large majorities in both houses, and Landrieu is the last statewide elected Democrat. As the Associated Press recently noted, if Landrieu loses, Democrats will not control a single governorship, Senate seat, or legislative chamber from the Carolinas to Texas.
Southern Democrats were once so loyal it was said they would vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for a Republican. In the 1990s, conservative, mostly Southern Democrats in Congress began calling themselves "blue dogs," because, one Texas Democrat joked, if you choke a yellow dog, it turns blue. But of course, if you choke any animal long enough, it will die.