SADOW: Mary Is On Life Support

Such was the Republican wave Nov. 4 that, had one not known the date, upon hearing Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s reflective, almost elegiac in content, remarks as the vote nearly had come in, one would have thought it was Dec. 6 and she was issuing a concession speech.

GOP gains nationally were on the high end of Congressional picks, including taking control of the Senate, and even the gubernatorial contests that they were expected to have small net losses turned out to be a net gain. It won’t be known for days, but hundreds of state legislative seats in net will turn over from Democrat to Republican as well.

The wave manifested itself in her contest for reelection by having her pull only 42 percent of the vote – a bare 16,000 votes ahead of her runoff competitor Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy with mid-major Republican candidate Rob Maness pulling over 200,000 votes. Only in Louisiana with its blanket primary system could an incumbent with such a terrible total against major party competition be in any contention to hold onto to the seat – as if. Those numbers alone make her a politically dead woman walking, yet it gets worse.

For one, there’s little opportunity for her to scare up more votes to make up ground. Turnout in this contest was about 200,000 more than the last time she ran in an off-year election, 2002, which represents a 5 percent increase in turnout percentage, even as her vote total increase ran a percentage point behind that. For another, she roughly doubled up Cassidy in campaign expenditures, and, when all is said and done with both money reported and not, probably more was spent independently for her than for Cassidy as well. If she couldn’t spend her way to leading Cassidy by at least 100,000 votes on the basis of that, she’s not going to make up nearly 200,000 in a runoff.

Nor do the runoff dynamics favor her. While she showed resiliency in 2002 when that runoff turnout declined by less than a percentage point, she was at 46 percent in the general election then and probably held her own with her base in the runoff. Her worse initial performance this time means she has to improve dramatically with dynamics that already make it easier for Cassidy to hustle his voters – and most of Maness’ – back to the polls.

Another indicator of her, and Democrats’, weakness in the state in this election as a whole was that her quality colleagues running in House contests, in the Fifth District Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo and in the Sixth District Prisoner #03128-095, each only settled for around 30 percent of their districts’ votes. This means they won’t boost turnout much for her next month.

And perhaps worst of all, that the GOP already has bagged the Senate takes away perhaps her biggest selling point this cycle, that she was an experienced senator who could leverage that to get stuff for Louisiana. But she’s a nothing now in a Republican-run chamber, and on every issue where she claimed she broke from national Democrats to benefit the state, now she cannot seriously argue that she would be more effective than Cassidy on those issues when he sits with the majority that has the power to do those things. Why go lite when you can have the real thing?

That turnout was higher demonstrates that any more than just a trivial number of Republican supporters are unlikely to yawn and stay home the first Saturday in December since the Senate is settled. More than anything, these results show a critical mass of Louisiana voters simply want her out of office.

In short, the result was a disaster for her. She’ll hang in because there’s always that live boy or dead girl possibility, but you might as well start forming the second line to her political funeral.



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