We’re Mary Landrieu fans, so we’re used to her “Perils of Pauline” routines where she somehow squeezes out an unlikely victory at the very last instant. But in her current reelection campaign, her Road Runner gig seems to have run its course and her Republican opponents are certain that she’s ready for their cooking pot.
“This is the fourth time I’ve opposed Mary Landrieu in a U.S. Senate race and I’ve lost three times,” says Roger Villere, Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. “So I have a lot of respect for her. But this time, everything seems to have fallen in place for us. It won’t be over until it’s over but I think that this time we may finally have her number.”
The Republican candidate, U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy, is the furthest thing from a flamboyant Louisiana politician. He is a careful, cautious physician who hasn’t been exciting but also hasn’t made any mistakes that Landrieu could leap on. Dr. Cassidy has passed up some TV debates rather than take a chance on a fumble just when he has reached the five-yard line.
Dr. Cassidy would be heavily favored to win outright in the Nov 4 primary but for the presence in the race of another Republican, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, the Tea Party candidate in the race who thinks that Dr. Cassidy is too moderate.
If Maness gets 10 percent or more of the vote, a Dec. 6 runoff between Landrieu and Cassidy is almost certain. If Maness gets five percent or less, maybe Cassidy wins in the first. Landrieu seems stuck around 43 percent, according to most of the polls.
In the end, Landrieu may be doomed because Louisiana –- once the most dependable of Democratic states where Republicans were said to meet in a phone booth –- has turned a bright red. In the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections, Barack Obama got 15 percent of the white vote. Landrieu, who needs pretty close to 35 percent of the white vote to win and has always just barely gotten it in the past, this time is being weighed down by Obama’s unpopularity.
Christopher Tidmore, a savvy lawyer/analyst whose columns appear in the Louisiana Weekly and is heard each week on the Clear Radio Channel, is one of the few pundits who thinks Landrieu still has a chance to pull out a victory.
“Never underestimate Mary Landrieu,” he says. “One of the keys to her past victories has been her ability to somehow get 40 percent of the vote in Jefferson Parish, a Republican stronghold. Mary was well-trained by her father, Moon. She does favors for people and they never forget that she helped them. She may be the last of the Louisiana Populist Democrats.”
Underlining the point was the endorsement of Landrieu by Jefferson Parish Councilman-at-large Chris Roberts, a Republican, who said Louisiana cannot afford to lose her seniority achieved over 18 years in the Senate that has given her the chairmanship of the Senate Energy Committee. Like her or hate her, says Roberts, the chairmanship of the Senate Energy Committee in the hands of a great politician like Landrieu is worth billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Louisiana. The same point was made in a brilliant endorsement of Landrieu by The Times-Picayune, which hasn’t necessarily always been on her side.
Allan, who has known Landrieu since she played second base in the NORD Pony Tail League 50 years ago, thinks she got off to a very slow start in this race for unknown reasons, but may now be hitting her stride as Nov. 4 draws near. Allan shares Tidmore’s view that Landrieu is still kicking and isn’t ready to be lowered into the Republican cooking pot quite yet. Is this her last race? Will her 37-year career in politics end in defeat? This may be end of Mary’s road, but the Fat Lady hasn’t sung the final aria yet.
Democrats have traditionally been stronger in their GOTV activities. But this year, the Republican National Committee and their PACS have funded an extraordinary campaign in Louisiana with nine regional offices, dozens of RNC staffers, loads of direct mail, phone banks and door knocking. The RNC knows how to research and is sending out very targeted messages.
With 15,000 early voting signs dotting the New Orleans landscape, the turnout for early voting has been exceptional, but not all those folks voting are Democrats. Though 36,000 new voters registered in the last two months, the percentage of Democrat-identified voters is down with Republican and Independent-identified voters increasing.
Mary Landrieu looked anything but desperate yesterday as her campaign held a women’s luncheon at the Hyatt attended by 1,650 fired-up supporters from around the region. The program included an Irma Thomas welcome; nuns praying; college-age women leading the Pledge of Allegiance; NOCCA students singing the National Anthem; Ti Martin as the Mistress of Ceremonies; remarks from Tulane professor Tania Tetlow who started out as Lindy Boggs’ intern and could end up a federal judge; a rah-rah introduction of Landrieu by State Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson; Landrieu’s speech and then a second line which inspired hundreds to head to City Hall for early voting.
Former Councilmember Kristin G. Palmer, who has been coordinating women’s events around the state for Landrieu, did an excellent job yesterday with the help of Verna Landrieu, Madalyn Schenk, Norma Jane Sabiston and her sister Dottie Belletto.
Women are definitely a target audience of both the Democrats and Republicans this year. Yesterday’s messages were very clear and very woman-centric.
Early voting ends Tuesday, October 28.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.