By Evan Halper, Tribune Washington Bureau
BATON ROUGE, La. — Mary L. Landrieu may be one of the most endangered Democrats in the U.S. Senate, but she gave no indication of that as she swept into a Baton Rouge union hall for a rally on the eve of one of her toughest elections.
Landrieu dismissed polls showing she does not have the votes to win an outright majority Tuesday and would lose in a runoff election that would take place next month. She will win it all Tuesday, she insisted.
“We are going to surprise the nation,” she said. “We are going to most importantly surprise Fox News … We are going to win this election. There is going to be a lot of confusion with the pundits tomorrow saying, how did we do it?”
“I will tell you,” Landrieu continued. “One: God’s grace. And No. 2, because we fight together as a team. We are not going to have anybody divide us and separate us.”
Landrieu, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, struck a notably populist tone. She railed against her leading GOP opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, for his proposal to raise to 70 the age at which retirees can begin to collect Social Security. In at least one Louisiana parish, the average African-American man only lives to be 69, she noted.
She took aim at Cassidy’s reluctance to support financial assistance for college students and the GOP opposition to infrastructure programs, which she said has cost the state money for potential projects such as a rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Cassidy has gained ground with voters by noting over and over again that Landrieu has voted with President Barack Obama 97 percent of the time on the Senate floor, and his campaign and allies have hounded her on national issues, including Obamacare and abortion. Landrieu has struggled to shift focus to local issues, her strength.
She was introduced by Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, who warned that the clout Landrieu has accumulated on Capitol Hill would dissolve should Cassidy win the seat.
“Mary Landrieu is a go-to person in the U.S. Senate,” Richmond said. “Her opponent, if I see him, I will speak to him. But I will not go out of my way to find him because he cannot accomplish anything. In a state like Louisiana, we need results.”
Also making that point was Edwin Edwards, the former governor of Louisiana and convicted racketeer who, at age 86 with his prison time served, is running for Congress in Baton Rouge.
“See this lady, Mary,” Edwards said. “She is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. … I don’t care whether you like her or don’t like her — whether you like the way she dresses or wears her hair or she is too this, too that — it is important to Louisiana that she keep her position.”
Landrieu is the only remaining statewide elected Democrat in Louisiana. The state has turned increasingly red in recent years, even though Democrats continue to have an edge in registration.
While her campaign declared that it had triumphed in early voting last week, turning out a surge of Democratic voters, local analysts are skeptical.
“They are talking like big things are happening, but it is hard to see,” said Michael Henderson, research director for the Public Policy Research Lab at Louisiana State University. “Nothing in the early turnout suggested the Democrats had something exciting going on.”
Landrieu sees things differently.
“I can tell you all with confidence that we are going to win this election tomorrow,” she said. “The people from Washington, and some of them are here … I say, ‘Honey, you don’t know anything.'”
Photo via Talk News Radio Service via Flickr
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