Louisiana voters hit the polls Saturday to cast their ballots for the final Senate race of the 2014 cycle where Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) is widely expected to topple incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE

A Cassidy victory would put an exclamation point on the GOP’s wave midterm election by giving them an eight-seat pickup and a 54 to 46 advantage next year in the upper chamber. 


Political watchers in the state say it would take a monumental reversal of fortunes for Landrieu to come out on top, but her Democratic allies argue that she’s a fighter who has won tough runoff elections in the deep red state before.

The centrist Democrat has been barnstorming the state in the final days of the campaign, hitting more than a dozen towns and parishes across Louisiana with the help of some of her Democratic colleagues.

Cassidy, meanwhile, cancelled his appearances at a couple of events and left the campaign trail on Tuesday to return to Washington for votes. The Landrieu campaign has accused Cassidy of hiding from voters and the press, but public surveys show he could afford to run out the clock.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows him with a 17.8 percentage point lead in the race. Most of the polls released during the runoff period have come from conservative-leaning outlets, but Democrats haven’t released any data of their own to suggest the race is much tighter.

Cassidy returned to the campaign trail on Friday for an event with Sen.-elect Joni Ernst (R) from Iowa, but most of the heavy lifting for him has been done by other Republicans and outside groups that overpowered Landrieu on the airwaves.

On Thursday, the Center for Public Integrity released a report showing that ads from groups attacking Landrieu have accounted for about 13,900 of the 14,000 TV spots that have run since the Nov. 4 jungle primary.

Early in the runoff period, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled $2 million it had committed for the race, leaving Landrieu outgunned and Democrats frustrated that one of their colleagues had been abandoned.

Cassidy also won the fundraising battle during the runoff period, bringing in about half a million more than Landrieu, and entering the final week of the campaign with $1.3 million in the bank, compared to less than $800,000 for Landrieu.

Democrats and liberal groups placed their bets before the runoff period, and in the jungle primary, Landrieu managed to take only 43 percent in a field where Republicans split the vote. Cassidy came in at 42 percent, while Tea Party candidate Rob Maness took 14 percent.

The huge gains for Republicans on Nov. 4 left many political watchers doubtful that Landrieu could survive another tough contest in the face of a GOP wave. With the Senate majority no longer at stake and staring down an uphill race, national Democrats opted to sit on what little money they had left. 

Cassidy was able to rally conservatives early. He picked up the support of Maness, which created a snowball effect of big-name Republicans who turned out for him at “unity rallies” across the state.

The deck has been stacked against Landrieu from the start.

The political landscape in Louisiana and other states in the Deep South has turned sharply against Democrats as white voters have abandoned them.

Landrieu is the last white Democratic member in Congress who hails from the Deep South. In her 2008 election, she took 33 percent of the white vote, but that fell to just 18 percent during the Nov. 4 jungle primary. 

After three Saturdays of early voting in Louisiana, Democrats were hopeful that their ground game could help turn that outlook around. But early voting numbers from the runoff period showed a gain in Republicans turning out in comparison to the early voting period for the jungle primary, and the number of white voters held steady. 

Meanwhile, the number of Democrats and black voters, with whom Landrieu has near universal support, declined.

President Obama’s unpopularity was a drag on Democrats during the 2014 midterms, and Landrieu has fought hard to turn the race from a national referendum to a debate about which candidate could better serve the voters in the energy-rich state.

She stormed into Washington during the lame duck session seeking to pass a bill authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline.

If it worked, it could have put space between herself and an unpopular president, reminded voters of her seniority on the Energy Committee and would have been evidence she has the clout to pull together a Democratic coalition when it mattered most.

But she fell one vote shy, while a version of the bill sponsored by Cassidy sailed through the House, giving Republicans more political ammunition against her.

In the final days of the campaign, Landrieu turned the bulk of her focus to allegations that Cassidy wrongly billed Louisiana State University as a part-time doctor while he was a member of Congress. 

Cassidy strenuously denies any wrongdoing, and strategists say it’s likely too late to make much of a difference.

Still, Landrieu’s supporters are hopeful. She’s been through tough runoff races in the past and come out on top. Democrats say they’re optimistic she can do it again.

Cassidy will hold his election night party in Baton Rouge, where he currently represents the 6th district. Landrieu will be in New Orleans, where her brother Mitch Landrieu is the mayor.

Polls close at 9 p.m. EST on Saturday.