So there’s the best visual proof that this is not a story about New Orleans being cleared out.
To be sure, New Orleans cast far fewer votes than it did in 2003 — something like 75,000 versus 130,000. Yet in case you suscribe to the theory that all the Democratic voters were washed away in the storm, Jindal improved only slightly in New Orleans between the two elections, by about 3 percent. That’s an indication of how diverse the people must have been who moved out of the Orleans parish — although there are now fewer votes in New Orleans, they exited proportionally.
What’s more, Jefferson Parish, which gave Jindal more than 60 percent of its votes in both elections, cast about 30,000 fewer votes in 2007. And there, too, the displaced voters appear to have been a cross-section of both parties, as his gains were very small — again, about 3 percent.
So no, Hurricane Katrina was not some kind of political boon for Karl Rove or any other evil Republican mastermind. The storm appears to have displaced Republicans as well as Democrats — although I have no idea how many of the displaced are now voting in other parts of the state anyway.
I’ve also put together and published a Google Spreadsheet of Jindal’s 2007 and 2003 percentages by parish, highlighting the parishes where Jindal had an improvement greater than 5 percent (I included 2007 vote totals so you’d have some idea of how important each parish is, some are quite small). I haven’t done all of the map-searching for the parishes yet, but I can already tell just by looking that many of Jindal’s biggest improvements were in the northern “Piney Woods” parishes, where white Protestants defeated Jindal in 2003. That was the real difference in this race — that and the fact that none of the other candidates were terribly inspiring to anyone.
The great irony of this election is precisely the racial question. Jindal’s defeat created such buyer’s remorse over Blanco that it evidently removed any racial questions from the minds of northern Louisiana white voters the second time around. Plus, Louisiana now has four years to get used to having a dark-skinned governor — a great chance to open the minds of anyone who has a problem with that.