But it wasn’t all a bed of roses for Cazayoux. Being the newest Democrat in Congress also makes him the newest superdelegate, arguably a much more awesome responsibility this election year than the tut-tutting of a fledgling congressman. It was something Cazayoux didn’t even want to think about.
“You know, I’ve been running for three months,” he told Politico in a hallway outside the House chamber, “and that’s just not something I’m going to address right now.”
Was he being lobbied by either of the campaigns? Had he received the barrage of phone calls that other superdelegates have described — the answering machine messages from Madeleine Albright, the cell phone calls from Bill Clinton?
“I don’t know. Not particularly. Maybe it’ll start.”
Had he ever met Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in person? Had he ever been brought backstage at an event for a sudden tête-à-tête, as other superdelegates had?
“Not that I know of.”
What about on the phone? Maybe Obama or Clinton had called to congratulate him on his hard-fought race?
“They may have talked to my staff. We’ve had three elections here in three months, you know. I just don’t know.”
Cazayoux cannot remain naive for long. Swirling around him all day Tuesday were the varied allegiances of his colleagues — Clinton supporters here, Obama backers there — all hoping to find a new recruit.
As he spoke, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) — one of Obama’s biggest cheerleaders in the House — approached and introduced herself. He greeted her graciously.
Later, he ran into civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a conflicted superdelegate if ever there was one. Lewis had backed Clinton, then under pressure from his African-American constituents and colleagues, he flipped and threw his support to Obama.
“Just let me know if you need anything,” he told Cazayoux.
“You’re an inspiration to me,” Cazayoux replied.
Cazayoux’s studied indifference to the presidential race stems from his own turbulent contest in Louisiana. Republicans sought to nationalize the race by stressing his ties to prominent Democrats. One Republican ad stated that “a vote for Don Cazayoux is a vote for Barack Obama and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi. ... Obama and Pelosi voted to raise income taxes.”
During the campaign, Cazayoux ignored the Obama comparisons and doggedly stuck to local issues such as the economy, health care and Katrina relief. Whether he had ever talked to Obama or talked to his people or talked to anyone who even knew him was not a topic the new congressman was eager to tackle in the press.
Cazayoux’s neutrality is mirrored by many other moderate Democrats in Congress, especially those who face potentially tight reelection races and worry that alienating one side or the other in the presidential race could jeopardize a close margin of victory. Moderate Democrats in swing districts can’t afford to have anyone stay home on Election Day because they snubbed a preferred candidate. As a result, few swing district Democrats have made their preference known.
Still, at some point, Cazayoux will likely have to consider his role as a superdelegate.
“I don’t know when I&rsquoll be ready. I’ll have to be ready,” he said, reflecting for a moment as he stood outside his new office. A congressional aide handed him his new cell phone. “I got a BlackBerry? All right!” he exclaimed.
The exigencies of his new superdelegate status would have to wait.