Louisiana, the Super Bowl of Politics

Michael Catalini

New Orleans was the center of the football world Sunday night, hosting its first Super Bowl since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. But it also provided a platform for a series of ambitious Louisiana politicians — Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu — to showcase their governing aptitude in preparation for bigger campaigns ahead.

And then the power went out to half of the Superdome, reminding viewers that one high-profile pitfall can damage the well-earned perception of a city on the rebound.

For Landrieu, a popular mayor with a sky-high approval rating after succeeding scandal-plagued predecessors, the goal was to orchestrate a successful reintroduction of the Crescent City to the country after Katrina in 2005. His popularity in turn could prove pivotal for his sister, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a tough reelection in a state growing more Republican.

Meanwhile, Jindal is seeking to become a national Republican figure, delivering the keynote address at last month’s Republican National Committee annual meeting. His brand is premised on executive competence, and he regularly illustrates it by touting his successes reforming education, tackling corruption, and reviving New Orleans since being elected governor in 2007.

"The Super Bowl in a lot of ways was a culmination of the recovery from Katrina. There was a lot of bipartisan spirit, and it was a big moment for the world to see New Orleans is open for business," said Republican strategist Brad Todd.

While Jindal and both Landrieus hail from different parties, their political fortunes will be closely intertwined over the next two years. All benefit from being connected to the New Orleans turnaround. But as their elections draw closer, watch closely to see if the narrative turns more partisan, given what’s at stake politically.