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Louisiana Runoff Looks Increasingly Grim For Landrieu

Although it has been overshadowed by the uproar over President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform, the unrest gripping Ferguson, Missouri, and the Thanksgiving holiday, there’s still a Senate race going on in Louisiana. On December 6, Pelican State voters will decide whether to grant a fourth term to Democratic senator Mary Landrieu, or replace her with Republican congressman Bill Cassidy. And with less than a week to go, things look very ominous for the incumbent.

Landrieu won a narrow plurality in the general election, topping Cassidy and right-wing Republican Rob Maness, 43 to 41 and 14 percent. Because nobody won a 50 percent majority, Landrieu and Cassidy advanced to a head-to-head runoff, which the Republican appears to be dominating.

Polls suggest that Cassidy has healthy double-digit lead in the runoff race. He’s also greatly outpacing Landrieu on the airwaves. While Republican-aligned outside groups such as Americans for Prosperity and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are still stacking money behind Cassidy’s cause, most major Democratic groups have abandoned Landrieu. According to The Washington Post, pro-Cassidy forces are on pace to spend about 100 times as much as Landrieu’s allies.

That leaves the senator with very few opportunities to shake up the race, although she hasn’t stopped searching for ways to do so. Landrieu tried and failed to pass a measure mandating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, in an effort to further differentiate herself from President Obama. And she has sharpened her campaign ads, accusing Cassidy of being a bumbling fool, and warning that President Obama will be impeached if Cassidy wins. But if early voting numbers are any indication, her efforts are falling short.

As The Times-Picayune reports:

About 85,900 registered Republicans took advantage of early voting for the Dec. 6 runoff, which was held during the week leading up Thanksgiving, as well as Saturday. That’s almost 3,000 more than the number of people who voted early for the Nov. 4 election, and it amounts to a 4 percent bump in early voting overall from a month ago.

The jump in early Republican voters is noteworthy, given that early voting overall dropped by 10 percent from the November primary to the December runoff. The number of registered Democrats who voted early fell even further — about an 18 percent decrease — from the primary to the runoff, according to information provided by the Secretary of State’s office.

That’s not the only bad news for Landrieu. The biggest drop in early votes occurred among the black voters who form her political base. A whiter runoff portends nearly certain doom for Landrieu, who won just 18 percent of the white vote on November 4.

Democrats warn against reading too deeply into the early voting numbers, citing the fact they don’t capture swing voters, and paint an incomplete portrait of the electorate. But it certainly looks like Republicans are on track to lock down a 54th Senate seat this Saturday.

Photo: Senate Democrats via Flickr

Mary Landrieu, Republicans Gear Up For Two-Part Louisiana Senate Fight

By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau (MCT)

BREAUX BRIDGE, La. — Ask Cajun food caterer Greg Latiolais how he plans to vote in Louisiana’s too-close-to-call Senate race and his answer leads to another question: Which time?

The disgruntled Democrat from the state’s crawfish capital plans to cast his ballot Nov. 4 for an alligator-wrestling Tea Party newcomer, Republican Rob Maness.

But as Latiolais and just about everyone else here knows, none of the nine candidates, including Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, is likely to cross the 50 percent threshold needed under Louisiana’s quirky law to seal the deal on election night.

So voters and candidates alike are already looking toward the Dec. 6 rematch, a race that, along with a similar potential runoff in Georgia, could leave Washington in suspense about which party will hold the Senate majority next year. If the Nov. 4 Senate showdown between Republicans and Democrats ends inconclusively, control of the upper chamber could all come down to what happens in potential runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia.

In the Pelican State, Republicans are already stockpiling cash to help GOP establishment favorite Bill Cassidy face Landrieu in the all-but-certain runoff. Outside groups are taking a strong interest.

Cassidy allies have purchased TV advertising time for late November and early December. Freedom Partners, a free-market “Super PAC” aligned with the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, reserved $2.1 million in television ad time months ago, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has plopped down $3.3 million for runoff ads.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says it has spent $2.1 million on post-November airtime for Landrieu.

That comes on top of the more than $25 million both sides have poured into the race since last year.

Democrats, meanwhile, are also asking their army of ground troops to plan on sticking around after Nov. 4 to help get out the vote in Round Two.

A similar national spotlight may also shine on Georgia, where a Libertarian candidate could force a Jan. 6 runoff between the front-runners, Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. That could leave the question of which party controls the Senate in limbo until 2015.

Roger F. Villere Jr., chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana, is alternately thrilled and anxious about his red state taking center stage in the battle for the Senate. But he worries the efforts of political outsiders won’t play well in a conservative state where the Big Easy quickly makes way for the Bible Belt.

“We’re going to have to manage the onslaught of national people coming in to help us out,” said Villere, standing outside party offices at a shopping mall in Metairie where Cassidy made a recent campaign stop. “It’s very hard.”

Part of the problem for Republicans is of their own making. The GOP vote is being split as Maness peels away support from physician-turned-congressman Cassidy, preventing either candidate from clearing the 50 percent mark. Many polls show Landrieu would lose in a head-to-head matchup against a lone Republican.

Landrieu’s team hopes the familiar GOP internal divisions will open an opportunity for her on Nov. 4. So while others look toward the runoff, her campaign and top allies are holding nothing back, spending twice as much in the run-up to November as her opponents, although so-called dark money from undisclosed donors almost evens the spending race.

Betting that Nov. 4 will be her best shot to win reelection, the senator’s campaign promises a vigorous voter turnout operation befitting her family’s New Orleans political dynasty — her father was a popular Democratic governor and her brother is the city’s mayor. Campaign workers have registered thousands of new voters, including many African Americans, whose support is crucial to Landrieu’s chances.

If Landrieu is forced into a runoff, money will not be problem, one Democratic strategist said, especially if the Senate majority is at stake — a sentiment echoed by Republicans.

“There will be more money than Donald Trump and God combined,” said the strategist, who asked for anonymity to discuss the Senate campaigns.

In some ways, Cassidy and Landrieu have already shifted their focus to the runoff, all but ignoring Maness, who wrestled an alligator in one ad but still trails in the polls.

Cassidy, an unsteady campaigner whose singsong cadence sometimes make his political speeches sound like nursery rhymes, has gained traction by linking Landrieu to the unpopular Obama administration.

“I am taking on the most powerful man in the world — and the senator that supports him 97 percent of the time,” Cassidy told a crowd at the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial Museum, home of a World War II destroyer docked on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. “She has used her clout. Unfortunately, she has used it on behalf of President Obama.”

Landrieu brushes aside criticisms that after three terms in Washington she is out of touch with Louisiana. She spends her days moving between the state’s diverse cultures: doing the hip-hop “wobble” dance with African Americans at a Southern University tailgate party and shoring up support from power brokers at a pork chop luncheon in the military town of Leesville.

“All he can do is throw rocks and stones,” she said about Cassidy after her talk at a Leesville church hall. “I would put my record fighting for my home state against any member of Congress.”

Down the highway, as he loaded groceries into the cab of his pickup outside Market Basket, retired Vietnam veteran Wayne Westmoreland, a Republican who used to be a Democrat, said he had not decided whether he would cast his ballot for Cassidy or Maness. “I just hope they beat Landrieu,” he said.

With a runoff, Westmoreland may be able to vote for both Republicans. But Landrieu is working hard to ensure he doesn’t get that chance.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Midterm Roundup: A New Frontrunner In Florida?

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Thursday, October 9:

• Another survey of Florida’s gubernatorial race suggests that Democrat Charlie Crist is close to reclaiming his old job. The University of North Florida poll, released Thursday, shows Crist with a 5-point lead over incumbent Republican Rick Scott. Crist only leads by 1.4 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average, but Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam C. Smith has seen enough to declare that “Crist may have become the clear frontrunner.”

• Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) continues to lead Republican challenger Scott Brown in New Hampshire’s Senate race. A new WMUR Granite State Poll finds Shaheen up 47 to 41 percent. Democrats’ strategy of aggressively attacking Brown appears to be paying off; his net favorability rating has plummeted to a startling negative-19 percent, down from negative-2 percent in August. Shaheen now leads by 6.5 percent in the poll average, and Brown’s odds of a comeback appear increasingly long.

• A CNN/ORC poll released Thursday shows Republican Dan Sullivan leading Democratic senator Mark Begich, 50 to 44 percent, in Alaska’s Senate race. Sullivan is now up 4.8 percent in the poll average, although it must be noted that polling in Alaska is notoriously unreliable.

• Larry Pressler, whose surging Independent campaign has turned South Dakota’s Senate race upside down, won’t say which party he’d caucus with if he scores an upset victory. But he did tell The Hill that he’d be a “friend of Obama” if he wins, creating another headache for Republican nominee Mike Rounds.

• And Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) continues to dominate the tailgate scene in Louisiana. After helping a fan do a kegstand at LSU two weeks ago, video has now emerged of Landrieu doing the wobble at a Southern University tailgate. The campaign trail isn’t all fun for the Democratic incumbent, however; she trails Republican Bill Cassidy by 5.6 percent in the poll average, and on Thursday she replaced her campaign manager — a move that bodes poorly so late in the race.

Photo: Mike Cohen via Flickr

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Midterm Roundup: Senate Control ‘On A Knife-Edge’

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Friday, October 3:

• Control of the Senate is “on a knife edge,” according to a bipartisan NPR poll conducted by Democracy Corps and Resurgent Republic. Among other notable results, the poll finds that Democratic candidates are winning the message battle, and are being helped — not hurt — by Obamacare.

• Speaking of the Affordable Care Act, Iowa Republican Joni Ernst’s fierce opposition to the law may come back to haunt her. Talking Points Memo reports that in 2012, Ernst said that she would “support legislation to nullify Obamacare and authorize state and local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement” it. Ernst leads by 2.8 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average.

• In light of three new polls finding Democrat Gary Peters leading Republican Terri Lynn Land by over 9 points, FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten declares that Michigan’s Senate race “can’t be considered competitive anymore.”

• Republican David Perdue continues to hold a narrow lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn in Georgia’s Senate race. Perdue is up 4 percent in a new Ramussen Reports poll; he leads by 3.2 percent in the poll average.

• And control of the Senate may not be decided in November. As The Wall Street Journal reports, both parties are buying television advertising time to prepare for the possibility of runoff elections in Louisiana and Georgia.

AFP Photo/Mark Wilson

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