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Landrieu second strongest Democrat in a Southern red state

12th May 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

A recent New York Times poll seems to indicate that US Senator Mary Landrieu holds one of the stronger positions for re-election, though she still suffers amongst some swing voters.

With 42 percent support, Senator Mary Landrieu, Demo­crat of Louisiana, has an early lead in a race that is not fully formed against a large field of Republicans. Her principal challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy only ranks out at 18 percent, do to the crowded nature of the GOP field. Twenty percent had no opinion.

The survey conducted on behalf of New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation, ranks out the other challengers, GOP State Rep. Paul Hollis and Ret. Col. Rob Maness with five percent and four percent respectively. The results show that frontrunner Cassidy must make an appeal to conservatives, or Landrieu has a strong chance of managing to construct a first primary victory. (Candidates of both parties will be on the ballot in November and, absent one of them taking 50 percent, there will be a runoff in December.)

The challenge to the incumbent Senator is that many of her usual crossover voters in Jefferson Parish, typically the Caucasian GOP electorate who have crossed the aisle for her and her brother’s bids for office, have experienced considerable angst over health insurance increases, attributed to the Affordable Care Act. Louisiana has seen rates jump by 53 percent in the last year. (The survey noted that Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say their support for a candidate was contingent on the candidate’s position on the Affordable Care Act.)

In a direct appeal to these voters, Landrieu’s first TV ad took on the Obama Administration in its continued delays in approving the Keystone pipeline—critical for the Louisiana economy. It’s an area of disagreement between Landrieu and a Democratic President, as she recreated a committee hearing where Landrieu blasted Obama on the matter.

In the ad, Landrieu repeats statements she made at an actual Senate Energy Committee hearing in 2013. The problem was that she could not use the original footage from the hearing for a campaign ad. That practice is banned under federal law. So, instead Landrieu’s campaign then turned to the Louisiana Senate president’s office, which allowed filming — a courtesy regularly extended to former state elected officials.

Landrieu served in the Louisiana legislature and as state treasurer. The ad brought condemnation from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Press releases des­cribed Landrieu’s re-enactment of a committee hearing “deceptive,” and a citizens’ group attacked her as an “actress” in an ad.

Of the endangered Red State Democrats, only Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor is in a stronger position than Landrieu, according to the New York Times survey. He beats GOP Rep. Tom Cotton by ten points, according to the poll. (This is the strongest showing Pryor has had in the last six national polls.) Kay Hagan and Mitch McConnell were statistically tied with their opponents in North Carolina and Kentucky.

The poll raises the possibility that Landrieu could win re-election, but that the Democrats could still lose the U.S. Senate. Currently, there are 11 seats nationally in play. That’s up from six just four months ago. Good candidate recruitment, and a difficult political environment for President Obama has put races in New Hampshire, Virginia, and Colorado back in play—though Democrats lead in all three.

Regardless if her party holds those seats, Landrieu will have to use her seniority as the new Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to raise her own funds. Currently, the National Democratic Party shows a negative financial statement, and might be overextended in other contests to be of much fiscal help to Landrieu.

Bobby Jindal came out worst amongst the Governors polled in the four Southern States, with the Democratic incumbents usually ranking higher. In Louisiana, only 40 percent approved of the job that Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, is doing, while in North Carolina, the view of the performance of Gov. Pat McCrory, who is not up for re-election until 2016, was split, with 43 percent approving and 44 percent disapproving.

By contrast, term limited Gov. Mike Beebe, Democrat of Arkansas tops out at a 68 percent approval rating. Perhaps as a consequence, the gubernatorial race this year is effectively tied, with the former Republican congressman Asa Hutchinson drawing 41 percent and the former Democratic congressman Mike Ross winning 40 percent. In Kentucky, 56 percent of voters favored the job performance of Gov. Steven L. Beshear, a Democrat who, like Bobby Jindal, cannot run for re-election in 2015.

The four statewide polls were conducted April 8 to 15 by landline and cellphone among 857 registered voters in Arkansas, 891 registered voters in Kentucky, 946 registered voters in Louisiana and 900 registered voters in North Carolina. Each poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points for registered voters.

This article originally published in the May 12, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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