While it may be too early to identify what the swing parishes will be in the developing U.S. Senate race, Republicans appear to be putting an early focus on St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes and, to a lesser extent, Washington, St. Helena and Livingston parishes.

Officials in St. Tammany, in particular, tell LaPolitics that the campaign of Congressman Bill Cassidy has invested in an extensive field operation in the area.

“That makes sense at first blush. That was also where we opened our first office outside of Baton Rouge this cycle,” said a source with the state GOP, adding they believe it’s an area where incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has “over-performed” in the past. “That’s a region where we saw a lot of people voting for John McCain for president and then also for Mary Landrieu.”

A Democratic operative said they’re eyeing the region as well, due in large part to the suburbanization of what used to be a landscape peppered with rural communities.

“The old style of politics there is falling by the wayside so there’s a void in that structure and we’re all trying to figure it out,” said the operative. “It’s also a major population hub. Those parishes have some big (precinct) boxes.”

Landrieu in 2008 gained ground in the GOP strongholds of St. Tammany and Tangipahoa, which together make up roughly 8 percent of the state’s population.

The 2008 Republican margin of victory in Tangipahoa was only three points, down from eight points in 2002. The margin in St. Tammany shrank from 36 to 24 points over the same period. Landrieu also managed to flip nearby Washington Parish in 2002 and narrowly maintained it in the last election.

Cassidy’s campaign was recently endorsed by the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee.

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