- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2002

NEW ORLEANS Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell's bid to unseat Louisiana Sen. Mary L. Landrieu is taking on a familiar look.
The tight race is a near duplicate of the elections in Georgia and South Dakota last month that pitted a Republican challenger supported by President Bush against a first-term Democratic incumbent who had the support of the state's other, powerful Democratic senator.
The question is whether Louisiana will be more like Georgia, where Republicans defeated incumbent Sen. Max Cleland, or South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson survived multiple visits from Mr. Bush to win re-election.
Newspapers and television newscasts were filled with stories about the president's visit this week, and Mrs. Terrell is already running a TV advertisement featuring the president exhorting voters to support her in tomorrow's election.
A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey yesterday showed the president's visit had a significant effect.
In a Monday-night sample, Mrs. Landrieu led with 48 percent compared with 43 percent for Mrs. Terrell. But after the president's appearance Tuesday, Mrs. Terrell led with 49 percent compared with 46 percent for Mrs. Landrieu.
Still, when the two nights are combined, Mrs. Landrieu holds a 47 percent to 45 percent lead. But both sides say the polls really just show the race will come down to which candidate can turn out her supporters.
"Mary has enough votes out there to win. They just have to show up on Election Day and vote for her," said Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, who was campaigning with Mrs. Landrieu on Wednesday.
Edward F. Renwick, director of the Institute of Politics at Loyola University in New Orleans, said the reason she ended up in a runoff election, which Louisiana law calls for if no candidate in the open field on Election Day tops 50 percent, is that her black supporters just didn't turn out.
He said the white-voter turnout was 8.4 percent higher than that for blacks last month, which works out to a potentially substantial swing, given that Democrats expect Mrs. Landrieu to win about 90 percent of black votes.
"If she could get the turnout up about equal then she could probably do it," Mr. Renwick said. At the same time, however, he said she can't afford to lose the white support she drew in November.
Mrs. Terrell has done her best to chip away at that support, particularly in the state's heavily Catholic southwestern corner, by challenging Mrs. Landrieu on abortion.
She has highlighted a vote Mrs. Landrieu cast to allow states to decide whether the "morning after" birth control pill can be distributed in public schools without parents' knowledge, and in one debate questioned Mrs. Landrieu's commitment to the Catholic faith the women share.
Mrs. Landrieu says the vote on birth control was a states' rights issue, and that Louisiana prohibits distribution of the pill but that other states should be allowed to make their own decisions. She also says her vote against President Clinton's successful veto of partial-birth abortions indicates her willingness to vote against her party.
Mrs. Landrieu says that by running so closely to the president and with the national Republican Party funding much of her bid, Mrs. Terrell has become a puppet of the national party.
"The race is close because my opponent got a blank check," Mrs. Landrieu said. "She got a blank check from the national Republican Party, and they have used it to challenge my faith, to criticize my family, to hurl all these personal, negative attacks."
While bashing Mrs. Terrell for trying to ride Mr. Bush's coattails, Mrs. Landrieu has invoked the name of the state's popular senior senator, Democrat John B. Breaux, in commercials and campaign appearances. While Mr. Bush visited, Mr. Breaux went out to stump for Mrs. Landrieu.
The strategy was successful in South Dakota, where Democrat Sen. Tom Daschle's support helped the state's junior senator, Mr. Johnson, return to office. It didn't work in Georgia, where Sen. Zell Miller's popularity failed to save one-term Democrat Max Cleland from defeat by Republican Saxby Chambliss.
At stake in the election are the president's newly minted mandate and a 52-47 Republican edge in the Senate.
If Mrs. Terrell doesn't win, Democrats will certainly use that to argue that the president's policies don't have as much backing as Republicans claimed after recapturing the Senate and padding its House majority in the Nov. 5 midterm election.
But if Mrs. Terrell does prevail, that should go a long way toward silencing that argument.
In his visit this week, Mr. Bush said Mrs. Terrell could be counted on to support his judicial nominees.
Kay Kellogg Katz, Louisiana's Republican national committeewoman, said that's an issue that resonates here particularly because the two judges that have been blocked by negative votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee were from Mississippi and Texas, the states on either side of Louisiana.
"We feel very strongly about support for the president, particularly in judicial appointments," she said.
But Democrats are also doing their best to turn Mr. Bush's visit into a negative for Mrs. Terrell.
On the day he visited, they found an article in a Mexican newspaper that said the Bush administration has agreed with Mexican officials on a deal that, Mrs. Landrieu says, would allow Mexicans to dump their sugar in the United States, thus devastating Louisiana's sugar-cane industry.
Within a day, Mrs. Landrieu was running a TV ad criticizing Mrs. Terrell for not confronting the president on the issue, and she predicted that would negate some of the positive effects of Mr. Bush's visit.
"I think her bump is going to be very small, because I think the sugar issue clarifies it for people," she said. "I'm glad we found out about it today, to say this is a perfect example of why the president would like a rubber stamp, but people black and white, young and old, rich and poor deserve a senator to fight for their interests."

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