“The Louisiana Senate race is one for the Republicans to lose. Without a doubt, Bill Cassidy leaves a lot to be desired in the conservative department. He has ho-hum ratings from conservative interest groups and is much more of a moderate too often afraid to take bold positions.
Rob Maness will draw a lot of support and money from this reality. Is he a good, solid alternative? Time will tell. And thanks to the open primary system, there will be plenty of time for conservatives to make the right choice. Hopefully the two Republicans – and any others who join – can make it through the first jumbo primary without alienating opposing voter blocks. A tea party vs establishment bloodbath is Landrieu’s best hope for a fourth term.”
The Jumbo Primary
Louisiana is one of a handful of states that holds an open primary on election day rather than holding primaries in advance and selecting party nominees. All candidates from all parties run on one ballot on election day. If no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote, the top two candidates move on to a runoff elections, and they can both be from the same party. This method has some advantages. First, it ensures that no candidate is elected to the US Senate without winning a majority of votes. It also prevents a third party candidate from playing “spoiler.” It prevents a scenario similar to what played out during the 2010 gubernatorial election in Maine. Republican Paul LePage won with under 40% of the vote as a liberal Democrat and liberal Independent combined to split over 60% of the vote. In Louisiana, a strong third party challenger would likely come from the right, so in this case such a system is advantageous.
Given the anticipated closeness of the 2014 Senate races, Louisiana could be the last state that decides who controls the chamber. If a run-off is held – a more-likely-than-not scenario – the victor will likely not be known until December.
The Democratic Candidates
Mary Landrieu is the incumbent who was first elected in 1996. In both her initial run and her 2002 outing, Landrieu did not obtain a majority in the jumbo primary and was forced into a run-off. She won by a fraction of a percent in 1996, and by just 3 points in 2002. She managed her best outing in 2008 when she landed 52% of the vote thanks in large part to the wave election that saw President Obama elected in a nationwide landslide. Of course, Landrieu has a much bigger problem in 2014: her 2009 vote for Obamacare. Despite the bill’s incredible unpopularity, she has re-affirmed her support of Obamacare multiple times, even saying that she would still vote for Obamacare today. She has mostly tried to blame the unpopularity of the law on the “poor roll-out,” pretending that the problems with the bill are simply technical glitches. But her deeper concerns became quite evident when she proposed a bill to address the on-going lie offered multiple times by President Obama and all of her Senate colleagues that if people liked their health care plans, they could keep them. Senator Landrieu is no longer a moderate Democrat in the eyes of many voters, and her vote and continued support for Obamacare has made that quite clear. (No other Democratic challengers through 2013)
The Republican Candidates
Congressman Bill Cassidy is the early frontrunner. Although 44% of Louisianans are unfamiliar with him according to a poll by Southern Media and Opinion Research (SMOR), the early news is good among those who do know him. He has a 37% approval rating to just 19% of voters who disapprove. He is very well liked in his own congressional district (60%+ approval), and he enjoys overall positive marks from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents as well as across all demographics. When the same poll noted Cassidy was a Doctor as well as a congressman, his favorable ratings shot up to over 50%, hinting that his medical background could be a huge benefit. Cassidy has also had considerable fundraising success early on, something that will be needed to combat the deep pockets of Landrieu.
Also running on the Republican side is Rob Maness, who is running as the “conservative alternative” and has taken aim at both Landrieu and Cassidy. A retired Air Force colonel, Maness has gained the backing of military PACs, Tea Party groups, and the Senate Conservatives Fund. In the same polling, his favorable/unfavorable rating stood at 36-29% in the survey, but voters are probably most unfamiliar with his candidacy. Maness has no political experience and is considered a long-shot, but then long-shots have quite a track record in the last few election cycles.
Where the Race Stands
With Landrieu drawing at least two Republican challengers, this race will likely go to a runoff as it did in both 1996 and 2002. The only other likely scenario would be Landrieu winning 50% outright (not likely) or Cassidy doing so (Maness would have to have a pretty poor showing). Polling for this race through 2013 has been light, but this is clearly a seat that on paper should be a pick-up. Mitt Romney won the state in a landslide in 2012 and President Obama and Obamacare are both unpopular in the state. Landrieu’s job approval numbers are slightly underwater with 48% disapproving and 46% approving of her work. She has a 70% disapproval rating from Republicans, 56% from Independents, and even 46% among white Democrats. Although she has won 3 elections, all have been quite close even without the dark cloud of Obamacare hanging over her head.
It’s a race for the Republicans to lose. Without a doubt, Cassidy leaves a lot to be desired in the conservative department. He has ho-hum ratings from conservative interest groups and is much more of a moderate too often afraid to take bold positions. Maness will draw a lot of support and money from this reality. Is he a good, solid alternative? Time will tell. And thanks to the open primary system, there will be plenty of time for conservatives to make the right choice. Hopefully the two Republicans – and any others who join – can make it through the first jumbo primary without alienating opposing voter blocks. A tea party vs establishment bloodbath is Landrieu’s best hope for a fourth term.