Friday, August 22, 2014

Race of the Day- Louisiana U.S. Senate

74 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Leans Republican

It is more likely than not that we will not know who has won the Louisiana U.S. Senate seat in November. Under the state's unique "Jungle Primary" system, there are no regular primaries, but a slew of candidates, of all parties, will appear together on the ballot on Election Day. The filing deadline ended today. If nobody receives a majority of the vote, the top two contenders, regardless of party will compete on Saturday, December 6th. It remains possible that the entire balance of power in the Senate will still be on the line and the whole country will be waiting on the Bayou State. Overall, Republicans are confident in taking control of the U.S. Senate and are increasingly optimistic that Louisiana will not even need to clinch it for them, and of picking up this seat. At this point, Democrats are hoping just to have their candidate make it to the runoff, where she can have more time, and possibly complete a victory in December as she has twice before.

Democrat Mary Landrieu was first elected to the Senate in 1996, back when Democrats still held some more sway over the state's colorful politics, and she was known as the daughter of a former New Orleans Mayor. (Her brother is Mayor now.) Just a year before that narrow and controversial Senate election, Landrieu, already a statewide elected official, had failed to make a runoff in a campaign for Governor, in large part because of distrust among the state's African-American voters. Since coming to Washington though, she has showed durability at the polls, as Louisiana continued to move more towards Republicans. In 2002, she won the December runoff, against the top Republican finisher among three main candidates, after her campaign had been considered to be dead in the water. Republicans had already taken control of the Senate after those midterms, and with a Republican in the White House, voters might have chosen to send her back as a check and balance. Her 2008 election, which featured a strong black turnout in the state, was a bit more of a traditional victory, as she won 52-46 over the only Republican in the jungle field.

As she seeks a fourth term, Republican opposition happens to be between three and one as two credible GOP candidates are running. Not long ago, a conservative State Representative ended his campaign, and that move has the potential of shaking up what could be one of several possible results in November. As she is a Democrat, representing a conservative southern state, Republicans certainly feel she is once again vulnerable, especially if she can be tied to Barack Obama and the national party on issues such as energy production. Landrieu often goes out of her way to stress her differences with the White House and her party leadership in the Senate on those and some other issues, but her vote for Obamacare, after a measure was enacted to benefit her state, dubbed by her critics as the "Louisiana Purchase" continues to anger many.

Many Republicans would like a candidate to have a clear shot at defeating her in November and believe they have a very electable conservative candidate to do so, but the presence in the race of a candidate who claims to be even more conservative and has the support of many national Tea Party groups is complicating the race. That insurgent candidate is a retired Air Force Colonel named Rob Manness. Polls consistently show him running a distant third place, but as long as he remains in the race, it makes it far more likely that the GOP vote will be split, and that Landrieu could finish first, but more importantly, advance to a runoff.

The establishment GOP candidate in the race is Congressman Bill Cassidy. A native of suburban Chicago, he wound up at college in Louisiana, and as a physician, first became politically involved as a Democrat. That is certainly not unusual in Louisiana, as many Democrats have switched parties in the past generation. Nonetheless, he was a campaign donor to Landrieu in 2002 and now hopes to defeat her. He claims she has moved too far to the left and Cassidy has compiled a pretty conservative record since first being elected to public office. As a sidenote in the race, Cassidy, and his wife, who is also a doctor, recently confirmed that their 17 year old teenage daughter is pregnant but that she has their unconditional support. That sentiment might endear the Cassidys to Sarah Palin, who was once in the same situation, but she is backing Maness.

As the campaign develops, Landrieu continues to look more and more vulnerable. Clearly, the political situation in her state is different than the times she was able to defeat serious odds before. Louisiana, outside of New Orleans, has become otherwise all Republican at the federal level, and it has become much harder for Democrats to win any sort of statewide race. The fact that this election is occurring in a midterm and in a state where Obama is so unpopular clearly puts Landrieu in a position that just may be too much to overcome.

Many political observers are becoming convinced that Maness is going to lose support the closer it gets to Election Day, as Republicans will vote strategically for Cassidy. If that happens, it is quite possible that Cassidy can capture a majority of the vote and become a Senator-Elect before the sun rises after Election Night. However, despite her problems, which include recent negative headlines about her use of charter flights that were "mistakenly" billed to her official Senate office instead of her campaign, Landrieu  is well funded, and probably can count on the votes of at least 40 percent of the state. As long as Maness remains in the race with any sort of visible support, I still am finding it hard to see how Cassidy can quite get to 50 percent on Election Day. Even if he somehow manages to finish ahead of her in the November voting, a runoff probably still looms.

If that situation comes to pass, massive amounts of money and nationally known surrogates will flow into the state, as they did in 2002. There are many theories that could be offered as to who would benefit more in Louisiana if Republicans had already had a strong Senate showing. My sense is that if the GOP is somehow just one vote shy of winning a majority, Landrieu is even in more trouble. Her best hope of winning her own seat might be to hope that Republicans have already won the Senate, even though that would have cost her job as the Chairman of the powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Right now, one on one polls between Cassidy and Landrieu are tight, indicating that she could still win reelection. Unless she somehow manages to pull off a small miracle and win a majority of the vote in November over divided GOP opposition, the task is going to be hard. Those who supported Maness in the first round of voting, or who are otherwise not entirely sold on Cassidy, are going to be heavily inclined to fall in line behind him in December. That factor, and the presence of an active Republican opponent, might be causing Cassidy's polling strength to be underestimated until the end.

Obviously, who turns out in December would play a big factor as well, but all scenarios seem to favor Cassidy eventually taking over this seat. Landrieu has survived before, and can never be counted out, but this year, it may just be too much to ask for.

Cassidy campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far: 4 D (3 Safe, 1 Tossup), 9 R (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 4 Leans, 2 Tossup)
Overall predicted thus far: 38 D, 39 R (net Republican gain of 4)


At 9:29 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Corey, Landrieu has won 5 statewide elections in the Pelican State: LA State Treasurer in 1987, 1991 and United States Senator in 1996, 2002 and 2008.

I strongly see her losing due to her vote for Obamacare. This will not go to a runoff.


Post a Comment

<< Home