A story which percolated in a number of Louisiana media outlets this week made fairly clear what many of us in the local punditocracy have figured for a while.
Namely, that Rep. Bill Cassidy is a likely suspect for the 2014 U.S. Senate race as a Republican challenger to Mary Landrieu.
Obviously, Landrieu is going to have a tougher Republican opponent than she’s had in the past; that only stands to reason given that the state has become a lot more Republican over the years and there are a lot more well-heeled and well-known potential Republican candidates.
But a Congressman is the most likely Senate candidate, historically speaking. Landrieu was Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor before running for the Senate, but David Vitter was in the House. So were John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston.
As a result, Cassidy is one of the obvious choices for the GOP to run. The others are Steve Scalise and John Fleming, plus whoever doesn’t win the Jeff Landry-Charles Boustany cage match. But Scalise is moving up in the House Republican leadership, and he’s seen as more likely to stay on that track. Meanwhile, Fleming might be looking at a fairly tough challenge from one of a number of Democrats who see his district as winnable.
Cassidy, though, has a creampuff of a district thanks to the state’s new Congressional map. He’s unbeatable, regardless of the state Democrat Party’s promise to contest the seat this fall. And his campaign war chest is massive; Cassidy’s got $1.49 million sitting in the bank, which is a war chest more than $200,000 larger than Boustany’s next-best figure, despite the fact he’s unlikely to need much of that stash this fall. Cassidy’s fundraising is the most consistently aggressive of the state’s delegation, and has been since he was elected in 2008, but what makes it most impressive is that he’s not particularly driven by PAC money.
All of which makes him the most likely choice for the race.
So when yesterday it came out that Cassidy’s camp is hiring Timmy Teepell, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s former chief of staff and campaign manager of the governor’s last two successful statewide gubernatorial runs, as his campaign guru, the conventional reaction is to say “this is all about 2014.”
Teepell and Cassidy’s camp both insisted it’s not. “This is the only 2012 campaign I’ll be doing in the state,” was Teepell’s quote. “This one’s special to me. I live in Baton Rouge. Bill is, I think, a great congressman. We’re good friends. And so it’s always enjoyable to work with your own congressman on their re-election effort.”
“This is about having someone on board going through 2012,” Jon Cummins, Cassidy’s media guy, told the Times-Picayune. “We are focusing on re-election.” When we gave Jon a hard time about that answer, he saw us and raised us with a bunch of talking points about how Cassidy wants to fight for coastal restoration and reforming Medicare and getting the deficit under control – as though a Senate seat isn’t a good place from which to handle those efforts.
Cummins is a good guy. He isn’t about to let the cat out of the bag, though.
Point is, most of the time in politics if something is unmistakably obvious you can bank on it happening. Which is what this is.
And in the event Cassidy does get into the race, he might have a sensational issue to run on. Namely, Obamacare and Landrieu’s “Louisiana Purchase” deal in which she sold her vote for what amounted to a tip to the state’s coffers. Landrieu got what she says was a billion dollars in cash for Louisiana as an adjustment to the federal Medicaid funding formula, and when the fit hit the shan about her deal she went after Teepell’s former boss for his lack of support. Landrieu’s position was that because Jindal had put the call out for some relief where the “FMAP” formula was concerned, he should have been happy about the Louisiana Purchase.
Jindal’s position, however, was that Obamacare was a disaster for the state and a poison pill for our fiscal corpus – so how could he possibly show gratitude for the deal? He did a nice job of being low-key in his criticism of Landrieu, since he had asked for FMAP relief, but clearly Jindal needed Landrieu to get him that help without attaching it to a destructive health-care program which puts an astonishing percentage of the state’s residents in the Medicaid program which already is causing havoc for Louisiana’s budget.
And today, even that relief looks like it’s going away. From behind the paywall at POLITICO’s web site comes an interesting story…
Senate Democrats appear to be climbing aboard a tentative deal to extend the payroll tax cut and prevent a cut to Medicare provider payments, despite some reservations and hopes that some of the financing could change.
The proposal could get final votes in the House and Senate as soon as Friday, but it could get pushed to Saturday.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), whose so-called Louisiana Purchase is being cut to the tune of $2.5 billion to pay for the deal, said she’s fine with the cut. The bump was originally designed to help the state’s Medicaid costs after Hurricane Katrina.
“It was never supposed to be permanent,” she told POLITICO. “We got an extra billion dollars for Louisiana. I’m very, very proud of that. It was a temporary fix and it’s just phasing it out.”
In other words, Landrieu sold out Louisiana on Obamacare thanks to a bagful of money in 2010, and now she’s selling out that bagful of money for a temporary extension on the payroll tax cut. And she says she’s proud of the Louisiana Purchase as her price for the worst piece of entitlement legislation in American history, even though we’re stuck with Obamacare unless something changes and the Louisiana Purchase looks like it’s gone.
She cut us coming and going, and in the future we’ll still get killed in the FMAP formula while at the same time getting killed with Obamacare.
There is no way to defend this, and it’s absolutely fatal for Landrieu to get mixed up in it as a defining campaign issue. Run Cassidy, who’s not only a doctor but a doctor whose clientele largely consistents of patients on Medicaid and thus has special expertise on this issue, against her and it has the makings of a total disaster for the Democrat.
Whether something supercedes the Obamacare debate or not is a question. But if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn it, and the GOP isn’t able to win the Senate and the White House this fall, it promises to be THE issue in the 2014 race. And if that pans out, Teepell could well have a successful Senate campaign to add to his resume in two years.