The numbers in the latest Harper Polling survey of next year’s Louisiana Senate race aren’t discouraging by any means, mind you. In fact, they serve to confirm what every poll shows and every pundit believes – that Landrieu is vulnerable and that the race between Louisiana’s last statewide elected Democrat and her Republican challenger is a nip-and-tuck affair.
But if you’re Bill Cassidy, it seems pretty obvious that you’ve got a sizable project ahead of you to define your opponent in a way which benefits your campaign, and that it might be in your interest to step up efforts at educating the public about Mary Landrieu.
The race stands at 46-44 in Landrieu’s favor according to the poll, which was conducted on Sept. 22-23 and paid for by American Crossroads. That’s not a bad number for a race with more than a year to go.
But what isn’t a great number is that Landrieu stands at plus-3, 47-44, on approval. That’s a number which is a bit too high – certainly anytime you have an incumbent whose approval is under 50 percent you’re in good shape to beat that incumbent. But driving that 47 down into the low 40’s or even into the 30’s is the project Cassidy has to succeed in if he wants to knock her out of the Senate.
Cassidy also needs to define himself, as his approval number is 23-22, with 55 percent undecided. The voters just don’t know enough about him, which is both an opportunity and a threat. Someone will define Cassidy, and if he doesn’t do it you can bet Landrieu sure will.
One thing which is clear from the poll, though – you won’t see Barack Obama campaigning for a senator who votes with him more than nine times out of 10. Obama is in rather foul odor with the people of Louisiana; he’s sitting at 38-57 on approval. And by a 45-36 margin respondents agreed with the idea of throwing out all the incumbents in Washington.
The poll also confirmed that Louisiana is a fairly red state. Some 46 percent of the respondents called themselves conservatives, while 34 percent say they’re moderates and only nine percent say they’re liberal.
Which means you can certainly expect some national messaging, probably coming from Karl Rove’s people at American Crossroads, aimed at painting Landrieu as a Washington liberal. Which she is. But that’s been done before with limited results.
This, from the NRSC, might serve to be a little more effective. A press release…
Nearly seven weeks ago, news stories revealed that the most powerful Washington lobbyists with business before Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have paid potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to Landrieu’s husband Frank Snellings for real estate deals, raising significant ethical questions. After almost two months of hiding behind her taxpayer funded staff and continued stories that call into question potentially serious conflicts of interest, Senator Landrieu has finally broke the silence – in defense of her husband’s real estate company’s clients.
At a recent press conference, Landrieu said: “The Tea Party has to understand that they cannot hold government and our private partners –which are many from big companies like Boeing and Lockheed, to small companies that are represented here — hostage over their inability to get a law that they don’t like amended.”
As the Washington Examiner notes: “That’s an interesting choice of companies, considering that Lockheed and Boeing are both lobbying clients of Tony Podesta, who recently paid $50,000 to Landrieu’s husband, realtor Frank Snellings.”
Landrieu’s latest outburst comes after multiple reports that make clear that Landrieu’s focus is on representing the interests of her husband’s powerful lobbyist clients – not Louisianans:
- The liberal Huffington Post reported: “mixing personal finances with political connections runs the risk that one party or the other could potentially have more than just real estate in mind. [Beltway super lobbyist Tony] Podesta, for instance, counts giant defense contractor Lockheed Martin and oil behemoth BP among his clients. Landrieu, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and comes from a state with a booming oil industry, is undoubtedly a key senator in the eyes of both of these corporations.” Most notable, Podesta, “the veteran lobbyist rarely misses an opportunity to strengthen his network of powerful friends.”
- The National Review noted: “Tony Podesta isn’t the only BP lobbyist paying Senator Mary Landrieu’s husband for real-estate services. Jason Schendle, a BP lobbyist and former Landrieu staffer, also used Frank Snellings, Landrieu’s husband, to purchase a $687,500 Capitol Hill townhouse in March. Landrieu’s office did not disclose how much Schendle paid Snellings, but based on industry practices it was likely around $20,000. Snellings is being paid for services by lobbyists whose clients have business before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on which his wife, Landrieu, serves as a senior member, prompting questions about a conflict of interest.”
- The Huffington Post lists several influential lobbyists who have a cozy relationship with Mary Landrieu and Snellings: Richard Zuschlag, a health care industry CEO and Landrieu donor; Melissa Maxfield, top lobbyist at Comcast; Former Louisiana Rep. Chris John (D) who now lobbies for the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, in which “Later the same year, Landrieu made news in Washington when she cast a deciding vote with Republicans to maintain billions of dollars in subsidies for the oil industry”; among many others.
After details of the unfolding story continued to emerge, Frank Snellings’ website still boasts of his marital and political ties to Landrieu, and features a large picture of the Capitol Building. Landrieu has made clear that her husband’s clients come first, but she still has many important questions to answer over the real estate scandal:
- What issues did Tony Podesta personally lobby Mary Landrieu on?
- What issues and clients did Heather Podesta have before Mary Landrieu?
- What issues and clients have other lobbyists including Richard Zuchlag, Melissa Maxfield and Chris John lobbied Mary Landrieu on?
- Will Frank Snellings release a full list of his real estate clients? How many had business before Mary Landrieu?
- How much did the Landrieu family profit from these real estate deals?
“Actions speak louder than words. While Mary Landrieu has been tight lipped about the real estate scandal engulfing her campaign, her actions suggest a strong loyalty to her husband’s powerful lobbyist clients who have potentially paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions to the Landrieu family,” said NRSC Press Secretary Brook Hougesen. “Landrieu has made no effort to clear this up and shed light on the murky web of relationships between her, Frank Snellings and Washington’s most powerful lobbyists. Instead, Landrieu seems more concerned with using her federal office to defend her husband’s clients. Louisianans deserve better”
To stay up to date on Landrieu’s wheeling and dealing, visit Landrieuforsale.com.
The picture that Cassidy and the NRSC needs to paint isn’t just of Landrieu as a Washington lefty; there are enough people she’s bamboozled into thinking she’s a moderate to make that a fool’s errand. Rather than that, the public has to understand that as a connected insider Landrieu will always vote to make government bigger so that she can exploit her influence and her family’s connections to get a bigger and bigger piece of the pie.
In other words, that she’s a lefty because she’s a crook. That there is a fundamental dishonesty behind every vote she makes, and the people of Louisiana and the rest of the country suffer as a result of that dishonesty.
There is time; we’re a year out from the election. But the mission is clear; the 47 percent of the public who say they approve of Landrieu needs to be made to feel uncomfortable about that approval, and it needs to be challenged. And the race will be brutal from here on in.