Louisiana 4th District
Northwestern Louisiana, south of Arkansas and just east of Texas, is part of the Deep South. The overwhelming majority of people here are Protestants, not Catholics, and they are often tradition-minded, with names that are English or Scottish, not French. The tone is set not by wide-open New Orleans—which was not easily accessible by interstate until 1996, when the last chunk of I-49 was completed—but by the smaller Shreveport, which could be just another East Texas oil-patch town, albeit one that has its own, comparatively sedate, Mardi Gras. The countryside is agricultural, though there are some vestiges of large riverfront plantations. Roots go back here a long way. Natchitoches is the oldest town in Louisiana, founded by Louis Antoine Juchereay de St. Denis in 1714. Shreveport was founded in the 1830s, when Capt. Henry Miller Shreve of the Army Corps of Engineers dispatched a young deputy named Robert E. Lee to break up a 100-mile blockade of logs in the Red River, moving the region’s epicenter upriver to a new town, which was then named for the captain. Oil provided the basis for much of the economic growth of the 20th century, but natural gas has taken off in the 21st century, helping to sustain the region during the recession. Gas was discovered in 1870, and the nation’s first gas pipeline was built from Caddo Field to Shreveport in 1908. However, it wasn’t economical to drill until gas prices zoomed upward in 2000. The dark spot for the local economy is the General Motors assembly plant in Shreveport, which manufactures Hummers and which had big job cutbacks in 2008. There are defense installations nearby, notably Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, one of the nation’s largest airfields, where George W. Bush landed on Sept. 11, 2001, and spoke briefly to the nation. Politically, northern Louisiana voters, for more than 100 years, have been voting against cosmopolitan New Orleans and the Catholic Cajun south, sometimes for rip-roaring populists and more often recently for market-oriented Republicans.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District of Louisiana consists of the northwest corner of the state. More than half of the votes here are cast in Caddo and suburban Bossier parishes in the far corner around Shreveport, with the rest scattered around rural areas, like picturesque Natchitoches and strip-highway towns like Leesville near Fort Polk. This area seemed to be trending Republican in the 1980s, but in the middle 1990s, it went the other way. Both Bill Clinton and Sen. Mary Landrieu carried the district in 1996, a critical factor in Landrieu’s narrow 5,788-vote statewide victory that year. In 2000, George W. Bush carried the area by a comfortable 55%, but it voted for Landrieu again in the close 2002 Senate race and for Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2003 over Republican Bobby Jindal. In 2004, the district gave Bush 59% of the vote. John McCain won the district easily, with over 70% of the vote in Bossier; Barack Obama took Caddo 51%-48%.