Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE’s (D) campaign in the Louisiana Senate runoff election has fallen flat.
The endangered Democrat’s “Hail Mary” effort to convince the Senate to approve the Keystone pipeline failed, undercutting her argument that she should be returned to the Senate for her clout.
She's fallen back on an advertising strategy that seeks to portray her GOP opponent, Rep. Bill CassidyBill CassidyLegislators look to expand health care access through telehealth, biosimilars Infrastructure deal is proof that Congress can still do good, bipartisan work The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House Democrats eye big vote on Biden measure MORE (La.), as bumbling and incompetent.
But nearly three weeks into their final faceoff, it is Cassidy who is ahead in the polls, and Democrats who are worried that Landrieu’s efforts are falling short.
“It didn’t work before, and if all you have is Cassidy bumbling in a speech, then you’re reaching,” said Danny Ford, a Democratic lobbyist and former party official in the state. “If they had something else on him they would have played it already.”
Bernie Pinsonat, an independent pollster and political consultant in Louisiana, called the ads “goofy” and said that they do nothing to alter the narrative in the state that Cassidy is bulldozing his way to the finish line.
While another Democratic operative close to the race argued that Cassidy remains a relative unknown who can still be defined by the ads, nearly three weeks into their final faceoff, strategists say it’s the Republican who is running the more effective campaign.
Cassidy, who split the GOP vote on Nov. 4 with Tea Party candidate Rob Maness, has steadily built gains with conservatives since the first round.
Maness has embraced his one-time rival, starting a snowball affect of Republican support.
Conservatives like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party Express, who backed Maness in the general election, have became vocal proponents of Cassidy.
Other Republicans who stayed out of the race during the general election, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), soon followed.
Paul headlined the first “unity rally” in Louisiana for Cassidy about a week after Election Day. Democrats initially dismissed the events as an example of Republicans air-mailing in the bigwigs for an unconvincing show of support, but the events have caught on and become must-attend events for party heavyweights.
In addition to Paul, Palin and Jindal, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), and Dr. Ben Carson have all participated. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will do so in the near future.
“The energy between the two campaigns doesn’t even compare,” Ford said.
Democrats argue that coming to the events want to see the visiting GOP stars, not Cassidy, and that they will stay home on Election Day.
But the Landrieu campaign doesn’t have anything close to the kind of party unity that Cassidy enjoys. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has abandoned her, pulling the money it had allotted for ads on television in Louisiana. She’s massively outgunned on the airwaves.
“The DCC pulled out, [Senate majority leader Harry] Reid isn’t putting any money in, and she has a huge disadvantage on advertising,” Ford said. “There’s also not a lot of money coming in for the House races that are in runoffs. The Democrats have pulled out, I don’t see how she comes back unless Cassidy does something really stupid.”
Democratic leaders from Louisiana will participate this weekend in “Meet Me At the Polls” events across the state, but it’s a far cry from Cassidy’s unity rallies.
Landrieu will be campaigning in the state, as will her brother, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D), but only two of Landrieu’s Washington allies will be making the trip – Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.).
The Landrieu campaign also has a Dec. 1 fundraiser that will be headlined by musician Stevie Wonder.
Still, Cassidy continues to rise in the polls. A handful of surveys from mostly conservative outlets have been released since Election Day, and they all show Cassidy with a double-digit lead. Pinsonat says he believes Cassidy is up by at least 10 points.
Democrats are pinning their hopes on Landrieu’s past record of pulling out victories in close runoff election.
“Nobody doubts how difficult this could be,” a Democratic operative said. “But the fact is Sen. Landrieu has done this twice before, so we’re relying on that history and our grass roots operations across the state…I’m optimistic. I go talk to voters and people are really fired up by onslaught of negative ads directed at her.”