- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Democrats are so energized by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu's re-election Saturday in Louisiana that they are predicting big Senate gains in 2004.

"Two years ago, the Republicans had 50 senators. Today they have 51. Two years ago, we picked up five seats, and we'll do so again in this cycle," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said yesterday, telling reporters the results from Louisiana have put "a bounce in our step."

He also said Mrs. Landrieu's victory she defeated Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell 52 percent to 48 percent in a runoff election shows the 2002 elections were not a runaway Republican victory.

"There was no such thing. And Louisiana proves it, I think, with an exclamation point," Mr. Daschle said.

Democrats said Mrs. Landrieu's victory and that of fellow Democrat Rodney Alexander, who won a close race in a runoff for the state's 5th Congressional District, show there is enough room for Democrats to stand with the president on national security, but differ on the economy and other issues.

Mr. Alexander ran as a pro-life, pro-gun supporter of the president, but he and Mrs. Landrieu both hammered away on economic themes.

Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, said the two elections proved to Republicans they "can't use these homeland security and terrorism issues to scare people to vote with the president" when Democrats are able to focus on jobs and the economy.

Democratic Sen. John B. Breaux, also of Louisiana, said Mrs. Landrieu's re-election proves Democrats in the South can craft a message and win even with a popular president opposing them.

"I think the message is a moderate message can win in the South, as well as elsewhere in the country," Mr. Breaux said.

Mrs. Landrieu was particularly successful in cutting President Bush's influence in the election by praising his leadership on national security, while questioning his commitment to Louisiana's agriculture and economy.

In particular, Mrs. Landrieu made ground with her charge that the Bush administration cut a secret deal with Mexico that would decimate Louisiana's sugar industry. During her victory speech Saturday night, she waved a sugar cane on the stage.

Republicans, though, said Mrs. Landrieu's case is unique and probably not transferable to other Democrats.

"How many other states grow sugar cane?" said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, the incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Mr. Allen said Democrats who find themselves in situations like Mrs. Landrieu's will continue to support Mr. Bush's agenda. He pointed to Mrs. Landrieu's vote in November to support Republicans on a critical homeland security vote.

"I think you'll find, especially those that are up in 2004, you'll see these election-cycle conversions and changes in their voting pattern," Mr. Allen said.

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