A lot of the reasons we here at the Hayride think we’re less than a year away from having a new senator from the Great State of Louisiana can be summed up in the following memo put out by Ward Baker, the political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
It’s a largely Beltway-based offering, and it misses a sizable number of more local reasons why she has problems. But Baker’s memo, which one can expect will inform the strategy of the Republican Party as it addresses next year’s Senate race, contains a decent review of the political trends and effects of Landrieu’s actions in the Senate as they relate to re-election.
It follows, with our comments as appropriate…
In October, Mary Landrieu stood on the Senate floor and told her constituents that her upcoming election should be a referendum on her vote for ObamaCare. Talking about voters and ObamaCare, the embattled Senator said, “If they do not like it, they can unelect us. Believe me, they will have a great chance because I am up for reelection right now.”
We are willing to bet that she regrets making that statement, since it turns out that in Louisiana, 60% of voters are less likely to vote for Landrieu based on her “deciding vote in support of ObamaCare.” In fact, Landrieu seems to have realized that voters felt this way shortly after making the comments.
Less than a month after declaring that her election was a referendum on ObamaCare, she introduced legislation that the liberal website Talking Points Memo said would, “do significant damage to the law” and that a writer at the Washington Post said was “BS political posturing.” And this week, Landrieu and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are lobbing desperate and misleading claims about the opponent they fear most, Dr. Bill Cassidy. It seems that Mary Landrieu and her team have forgotten that she once praised the compromise that raised the Social Security retirement age to 67 as “saving” the program.
Even more hypocritical, Mary Landrieu has endangered entitlements instead of working to save, protect, and preserve them. The truth is Mary Landrieu’s deciding vote for ObamaCare eliminates $717 billion from Medicare – including nearly $10 billion directly from Louisiana. This also includes $154 billion from Medicare Advantage – which will hurt seniors. According to the Wall Street Journal, doctors are already being cut from Medicare Advantage plans because of the Administration’s cuts to the program, and the New York Daily News reported that, “due to reductions in funding under the law, the Medicare Advantage programs, in which Medicare provides money for private insurers to cover seniors, have quietly started to cancel the contracts of providers to save money.”
All of this is correct. What it misses is what Landrieu’s campaign and the Louisiana Democrat Party are doing about it – namely, an attempt to change the subject and try to make the election about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision not to expand Medicaid in the state. Rep. Vance McAllister, who won last month’s special election runoff in the 5th District race after suggesting a Medicaid expansion, gave the Democrats something of a lifeline in doing that, and the state’s media has dutifully followed suit (as we saw when the Times-Picayune parroted the Democrats’ talking points last week).
It’s going to be important for Bill Cassidy – and Rob Maness, if he wants to run against Mary rather than Cassidy – not to get sidetracked on the Medicaid question where health care is concerned, or if he is drawn into Medicaid he needs to explain how putting people on Medicaid without expanding actual access to medical care (meaning, having more doctors and nurses available to treat the increased number of patients a Medicaid expansion would create) is a solution solely on paper and something for politicians to lie about in an effort to make themselves appear to be solving problems.
THE SENATOR FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
Speaking of “BS,” this isn’t the first time that double talk has been synonymous with Mary Landrieu back in Louisiana. Voters are getting tired of Landrieu’s misleading claims and the fact that she has repeatedly missed the mark on issues important to actual Louisianans. Mary Landrieu arrived in Washington 17 years ago claiming to be a centrist Democrat, but her record shows a Senator who merely masquerades as one. Over the last two decades, Louisiana has grown more conservative while Landrieu’s voting record has grown frighteningly liberal. She has voted with President Obama 95% since he took office – (despite representing a state that he lost by 17 points).
In fact, one could run an entire campaign comparing Landrieu’s positions in 1996 to how she has conducted business in the Senate. She once supported amending the Constitution to implement term limits to 12 years for Senators (she’s currently in her 17th year). She’s reversed herself on the Balanced Budget Amendment after promising to support it when she first ran and has voted for every big-spending boondoggle to come out of Washington under this administration. Any claims to support a balanced budget and reduce debt, both in principle and in action, have long since been abandoned. Landrieu supported welfare reform as a candidate but has turned her back on the reform as a Senator, and has flip-flopped on multiple immigration issues and now even opposes safeguarding to ensure illegal immigrants don’t receive taxpayer funded government benefits. Perhaps Landrieu’s biggest flip-flop of them all is her transformation from opposing health care mandates as a candidate 1996 to being the deciding vote in the U.S. Senate for ObamaCare.
This record is at odds with the people of Louisiana, 60% of whom say President Obama is doing a “poor” or “not so good” job. Only 15% think he is doing an “excellent” job.
That being said, it’s not hard to fathom the reasons for Landrieu’s liberal transformation. After all, it is a tenuous claim for Landrieu to continue saying she is a Louisianan anymore. In 1997, after getting elected to the Senate, Landrieu and her husband registered to vote at her mother’s house and promptly moved their family up to Washington D.C. Landrieu’s husband even brags about moving the whole family out of Louisiana to Washington on his web page.
We’ve said for a while that one of the best moves someone could make in this race would be to do up a mini-publication that looks like a Better Homes And Gardens spread, complete with nice color photos and some glowing prose (which doesn’t read as an attack on her at all), about Mary’s beautiful $2 million mansion on Capitol Hill and her lavish, privileged D.C. lifestyle – and then send it out to the poorest, most heavily Democrat neighborhoods in the state. Get a little class envy going – but don’t beat anybody over the head about how rich and privileged she is; they’ll figure that out on their own.
Or if they don’t, you won’t get their votes anyway. Those are her voters. The point is to set fires in the enemy’s camp.
DISTANCE MAKES THE POLLS GROW WEAKER
From a strategic perspective, Mary Landrieu has never been electorally strong, but her leftward shift further erodes an already dwindling base of support. In her three elections to the Senate, she has never exceeded 52% of the vote, twice out of the three elections having to go to a run-off after not garnering a majority on Election Day. Moreover, Landrieu has never had to run in a bad year for Democrats. She was first elected in a Presidential election year when Bill Clinton won Louisiana. She was then re-elected in a Republican President’s mid-term election in 2002, and in a wave Democratic election in 2008. Running in an unpopular Democratic President’s second mid-term (a historically challenging environment), will be an imposing task.
The polling bears out her challenges. A publicly released poll has already shown Landrieu trailing on the ballot, and post-ObamaCare rollout polling shows her at only 41% on the ballot to 44% for GOP candidates combined. Moreover, Landrieu’s job approval has taken a sharp dive following the ObamaCare rollout, dropping 10-points since the spring and now inverted (46% positive – 51% negative).
In her last election in 2008, Mary Landrieu did not trail on the ballot even once in the polling from December 2007 through Election Day (and then she under-performed the margin from public polling by about 9-points).
That’s true, and it’s also true that the GOP has a better candidate this time than it has had in those three previous elections. While John Kennedy and Suzie Terrell were statewide elected officials at the time they ran against Landrieu, they held offices people don’t pay all that much attention to (Treasurer and Commissioner of Elections, which isn’t even an elected office anymore). Cassidy is a Congressman, and he’s also been a Republican for more or less his entire career as an elected official. Kennedy was a Democrat when he ran for re-election as Treasurer in 2007 and only switched to the GOP for the Senate race in 2008. Conservative voters in the state, already enervated by the presence of a RINO (John McCain) at the top of the ticket, weren’t moved.
Interestingly, the Landrieu camp made a failed, halting attempt a few weeks ago to paint Cassidy in the same way Kennedy was painted with their “@libbillcassidy” gambit. It lasted only a few hours before being scrapped when we called them out on it.
LANDRIEU’S FINAL YEAR IN THE SENATE, BUT NOT IN WASHINGTON
Mary Landrieu must really appreciate her compatriot to the north, Senator Mark Pryor from Arkansas. If it were not for him, she would likely be considered the most vulnerable Senate incumbent facing re-election in 2014. Stu Rothenberg rated the Louisiana Senate seat a “pure toss-up” and said “it’s a close call on who is more vulnerable” in an article titled “Pryor by a Hair.”
So Landrieu wins the silver medal, she is the Senator second-most likely to lose his or her seat next year. It’s not all bad news for Mary Landrieu, however. The Senator from Washington, D.C. lives very comfortably in a luxurious townhouse on Capitol Hill, and has a lot of rich lobbyist friends whom she and her husband have gottencozywith instead of remaining true to campaign promises. Once Landrieu is retired by the voters in Louisiana, she can get back to work serving her constituents and friends on K Street.
That last bit is typical Beltway partisan babble, and considering that Landrieu would only be doing what every other washed-up politician on Capitol Hill does (see John Breaux, Billy Tauzin, Richard Baker and Bob Livingston for lots of bipartisan examples) it’s probably not as effective for the NRSC to be tossing it out there as they think.
The issue isn’t that Mary Landrieu is a DC insider. She’s actually traded on the fact she’s a DC insider so far with the voters of the state, as she’s built her career in the Senate based on deliverables back to Louisiana. As an example, Boysie Bollinger doesn’t endorse Mary and write her a check because he’s so enamored with her honesty, integrity or ideology; he endorses her and writes her a check because she’s on Appropriations and Homeland Security, and the fact that she is means she can make sure the Coast Guard buys cutters from Bollinger Shipyards and therefore keep him dining at the finest steakhouses.
Mary’s touted the fact that she’s connected and because she is, she can bring all kinds of pork back to the state.
The challenge is to say that her carefully-crafted reputation as a benevolent porker is a fraud on the same scale her supposed centrist record is, and to show that her connections benefit a bunch of crooked insider-politico types in Louisiana rather than the public at large. There are lots of examples of this, but the famous case of state sen. Gary Smith (D-Reserve) and his family’s motorcycle dealership getting a FEMA contract after Katrina to supply trailers at a huge markup, despite that company’s never having been in the trailer business, due to a connection with Landrieu is the most classic example.
The win along these lines is to create the narrative that Landrieu’s insider connections help her friends in Louisiana – not the people who have actually needed the help. Meanwhile, our share of the federal debt run up by all this profligate and wasteful pork gets larger and larger, our coast is still eroding and our share of offshore oil revenues has barely moved despite all of Mary’s supposed stroke in DC.
On the whole, though, Baker describes many of the forces working against Landrieu’s election, and lays the groundwork for most of what you’ll hear out of the GOP as the race unfurls.