Her political life continues, but the sharks definitely are circling and continue to close in on Sen. Mary Landrieu as her reelection polling numbers erode further, Republicans maneuver to leave her no way out, and the Gromyko of the White House refuses to toss her a lifeline.
The Louisiana Democrat, despite having an exceptionally liberal voting record in her 17 years in office, has survived because she began with a narrative that she was a moderate willing to buck her party on important issues to the state and expanded it to an imagery that her experience made her too effective for replacement. But (brace yourself in visualizing this metaphor) the clothes are off the empress for many, beginning with her failure to vote against the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare’), which otherwise would have defeated it. As the latest poll numbers from the Democrat-sympathetic Public Policy Polling shows, an absolute majority of registered voters loath the law that already is pricing many out of the insurance market, forcing them to change providers, encouraging rationed and less convenient care, and making some pay for the leisure activities of others.
As a result, the PPP summary notes she has an absolute majority of respondents also disliking her, a number that has continued to rise (and this trend perhaps explains why PPP had a gap of just two months from the last polls of this contest, which ballooned nearly to five months this time). In tandem, keeping in mind that the voting model here by using registered voters disproportionately favor Democrat candidates and is based upon presidential, not midterm, electorates that also favor Democrats, support for her main challenger Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy has continued to rise as has his name and party recognition. If not already, this trend threatens to become irreversible.
The precariousness of her position cannot be understated. In no recent poll has she even approached 50 percent of the intended vote, in this one holding just 45 percent and one point ahead of Cassidy, obviously within the margin of error. Not knowing comprehensively polling information of every Senate contest of the past few decades, I’ll use a qualifier, in that, absent some fantastic scandal or gaffe, I know of no Senate incumbent who ever has won reelection with the likeability, intent-to-reelect, and raw voting for numbers that she has nine months or fewer out from the election. These must reverse if she has any hope at all to get another six years.
With the moderate sheep’s clothing off the liberal wolf that she is, the only way she can restore the illusion to do this is to validate the narrative that she is effective in bringing about good policy outcomes for the state. Except she is getting no traction on the two current big issues for the state other than Obamacare that pummels her, drawing up flood control policy that neither drastically affects some policyholders nor perpetuates an actuarially-unsound program and expansion of opportunity in the energy sector.
Landrieu has tried to present herself as a leader in revising a recently-passed enacted law that has passed on astronomical rate increases for some and for others would do so to buyers of their property, in effect driving down a sales price or even making the property essentially unsaleable. Cassidy stole a march on her when his amendment in this year’s budget to delay some of this became law, but she was a leader in the Democrat-majority Senate to come up with a bill featuring broader, permanent relief.
However, the Republican-controlled House will not move on the bill, in part having gotten permission from Pres. Barack Obama by his administration saying they opposed the bill, even as he later clarified to say he would not veto it. Instead, its leaders are devising their own version that apparently would provide relief but relying upon less government-centric mechanisms. Chances are the final product will end up having Cassidy’s name on it, or as in the form of an amendment to the Senate’s S. 1926, and it will get to the Senate.
Which puts Landrieu in a humiliating position. Because Cassidy is not captive to a narrative that he must prove “effectiveness,” Landrieu needs any passage far more than does he and will approve of anything in order to be able to say she supported relief. But, if not by a barrage of ads throughout, six months from now in some hypothetical campaign debate Cassidy can remind listeners that the version connected to him was the one that made it into law (in addition to the delay), while hers ended up on the scrap heap. It’s a no-win situation for her: she must vote for relief, but she will be forced into voting for it in a way that invalidates her effectiveness narrative.
If she’s got to take a political hit, here at least it’s Republicans outmaneuvering her. Worse is when her own party leader essentially tells her to drown, as is Obama on energy issues. Already his finding every possible way to delay the Keystone XL pipeline expansion throughout the country makes her seem powerless to implement a key issue preference helpful to Louisiana, again impugning the narrative. Yet worst of all, she’s now falling on her sword to support an Obama nominee with a decidedly anti-expansionary, pro-environmentalist attitude about energy production.
Even if this radical shill Rhea Suh does not win confirmation, with Landrieu’s support of her in committee if not on the floor, it’s just more campaign fodder for defeating her narrative. It’s not only that she doesn’t have the influence to get her party to make policy beneficial for her state, Cassidy can argue, but also that she’s supporting policy-makers who want to rule against Louisiana’s best interests – a line easily confirmed by the propensity of her leadership political action committee JAZZ PAC for giving to candidates that fit this profile. The ultimate implication is that she’s a hypocrite on this score, and one wonders how long before it will be that Cassidy begins to plug away at a gambit of publicizing this.
That she’s in real trouble, evident some months ago to the more perspicacious, finally is beginning to dawn even on those sympathetic to her. If she has any hope at all, barring some incredible self-inflicted wound on the GOP’s part, relatively stubborn dynamics have to make an improbable change, and change now.