In her best chance with a deck all but stacked against her, three-term US Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) persuaded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to schedule a vote on the Keystone Pipeline, a project highly popular in her state, home to a major offshore oil and gas industry. But the Hail Mary pass remained uncompleted: The Senate’s 59-to-41 vote fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed. There was no fall-back strategy, and Landrieu’s prospects for defeating her challenger, US Rep. Bill Cassidy (R), in the state’s Dec. 6 runoff are nil to poor.
While Landrieu’s risky strategy failed in the Senate by one vote, with only 14 Democrats voting for the measure, Cassidy sponsored the bill in the House where it passed with flying colors. “She tried to play the clout card, but it ended up backfiring.” notes Joshua Shockley, an associate professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. “I think Sen. Landrieu’s done for, for both reasons in and out of her control,” says Shockley. “She’s the victim of a larger political environment,” noting that her fellow Democrat, President Obama, is unpopular and “even more so in Louisiana.” Shockley points out that Landrieu “is the only Democratic federal statewide officeholder in the Deep South.” Moreover, with the Senate now switching to Republican control, Landrieu will no longer chair the Senate Energy Committee.
Indeed, the outlook for Landrieu appeared bleak as soon as the votes in the Nov. 4 “jungle primary” were counted. She came in first, with a 42.1% to 41.1% edge over Cassidy, but far from the 50%-plus-one she needed to win the election outright. Moreover, Rob Maness, the Tea Party candidate who came in third with 14%, quickly endorsed Cassidy, making the numbers extremely difficult for Landrieu. Of note: On Dec. 4 Landrieu received only 18% of the white vote.
The first signal that her race was essentially unwinnable came when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cancelled its TV buy in Louisiana. Since then, Democratic National Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schulz sent out a fundraising email on Landrieu’s behalf, but it was probably too little too late. More fun and probably more lucrative, Stevie Wonder will headline a Dec. 1 fundraising concert for her in New Orleans.
Shockley believes that Landrieu would have been better off stressing the issues on which she and Cassidy differ, such as raising the minimum wage. And noting that she “underperformed among women voters,” Shockley says she could have used her stands in favor of the Violence Against Women Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Cassidy opposes. “But they really went all in for Keystone,” which came a cropper.
Meanwhile, Cassidy, “who is not the most dynamic personality… ran a mistake-less campaign,” says Shockley, limiting his appearances before large audiences, and benefitting from appearances by GOP bigwigs, including Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. And Jeb Bush headlined a Washington, DC, fundraiser for him.
The polls following the Nov. 4 vote have consistently shown a substantial lead for Cassidy. The latest Rasmussen Reports’ survey of likely voters, taken Nov. 16-19, gave Cassidy 56% to Landrieu’s 41%. It also showed that even if the Senate had passed the Keystone Pipeline bill, she may not have benefited a great deal. Among the voters who strong favor the pipeline project, Cassidy led by 78% to 20%. The poll showed her running well among Democrats and younger voters, while Cassidy ran better among men, older voters, Republicans and independents. He also scored 21% among Democrats (to her 76%). Interestingly, women were evenly divided between the two candidates. The Rasmussen poll echoed Cassidy’s internal poll, which showed him with a 57% to 41% lead.
The GOP has a 53-46 majority in the incoming Senate. If Cassidy wins, as expected, it will have a 54-36 majority.