Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu scored a stunning first-round landslide to become the first white mayor of New Orleans since 1978. Wheras his predecessor, C. Ray Nagin, had shamelessly played the race card four years earlier, proclaiming that God intended New Orleans to remain a “chocolate city,” race played no part in Landrieu’s campaign. Nor did race, this time, determine the choice of the city’s African-American majority, which spurned the two main black candidates and gave some 58% of its vote to Landrieu. Crossover voting by the city’s two-thirds black majority largely accounted for Landrieu’s wide margin of victory, But in fact, he was the choice of every demographic group, won all but one of the city's 366 precincts, and took 66% of the overall vote.
How can we explain such a juggernaut performance by a man whose earlier campaigns had ended in failure? Maybe, like the Saints, his time had simply come. But it’s more than that. Like Barack Obama in 2008, Landrieu became the lightning rod for all those who desired change after a disappointing administration. Landrieu’s image also benefited from his long experience in government, a reputation for competence, solid connections in Washington, and name recognition—his father, Moon Landrieu was a popular mayor in the 1970s, and his sister Mary is a Democratic Senator.
Landrieu’s sweeping victory, in itself a symbol of unity, gives him a chance to pull the city together and take on the huge challenges it faces in this recessionary, post-Katrina environment: crime, education, rebuilding , jobs, and corruption. But his victory, for all the hopes it engenders, will mean little if he cannot make progress on all those fronts. As Obama could tell him after his tumultuous first year, the people who elect you expect results. They will be watching from day one.