Louisiana Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu said Thursday that the issue of race is a major reason that President Barack Obama has struggled politically in Southern states.
“I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans,” Landrieu told NBC News in an interview. “It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”
Noting that the South is “more of a conservative place,” she added that women have also faced challenges in “presenting ourselves.”
The comment prompted a fiery response from Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who called it “remarkably divisive.”
"She appears to be living in a different century," he said in a statement. "Implied in her comments is the clear suggestion that President Obama and his policies are unpopular in Louisiana because of his ethnicity. That is a major insult by Senator Landrieu to the people of Louisiana and I flatly reject it."
Landrieu, who is locked in a close election against two Republicans, said that Obama has faced opposition for policy reasons too, noting that Louisianans believe his moratorium on offshore drilling hurt the state’s economy.
"One of the reasons that the president’s so unpopular is because he put the moratorium on off-shore drilling. remember? After Macondo. And our state was furious about that. Now he could have shut down the BP operations but he didn’t, he shut down the whole Gulf," she said. "When you shut down the whole Gulf of Mexico it puts a lot of people here at risk and out of business. That’s number one.”
And she noted that the Democratic Party is different state to state, saying: "The Democratic Party is not the same thing in New York as it is in Louisiana. You know what’s also interesting? The Republican Party is not the same thing in California as it is in Utah."
Landrieu said that while the ideological environment of the country may have changed, her philosophy has not.
“Right now the country is very polarized and it’s because we’ve got FOX on one side and MSNBC on the other and people just fighting for the center,” she said. “But I’ve been in the center. I’ve never moved.”
But she did modify a previous statement about whether or not she would support Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for re-election, saying that she now wants to wait to see who competes for the job with him.
“Three months ago I said that I would vote for Harry Reid again. I’m telling you today, that I’m gonna see who is going to run,” she said. “I have no idea. And then I’m going to make my mind up based on who’s the best for Louisiana.”
Here’s a full transcript of the exchange about Obama and his race.
TODD: Why does President Obama have a hard time in Louisiana?
LANDRIEU: One of the main reasons is because his energy policies are really different than ours. I mean, we’re a pro-production state. We wanna drill almost anywhere. People believe that it’s an opportunity for Americans to become energy self-sufficient.
TODD: But if the Democratic party isn’t there, you say President Obama, Harry Reid isn’t there. He’s not there is he?
LANDRIEU: I’ve worked with four majority leaders. I”ve worked with Trent Lott, I’ve worked with Bill Frist, and I’ve gotten along with everybody and tried to get the job done for the state of Louisiana.
One of the reasons that the president’s so unpopular is because HE put the moratorium on off-shore drilling. remember? After Macondo. And our state was furious about that. Now he could have shut down the BP operations but he didn’t, he shut down the whole Gulf. When you shut down the whole Gulf of Mexico it puts a lot of people here at risk and out of business. That’s number one.
I’ll be very very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader. It”s not always been a good place for women to present ourselves. It’s more of a conservative place. So we’ve had to work a little bit harder on that, but you know, the people trust me, I believe. Really they do. Trust me to do the right thing for the state.