- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Republicans in Louisiana yesterday basked in the strategic victory they won against Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, but today begins a tough campaign toward the December 7 runoff.
Mrs. Landrieu, a first-term Democrat, led a nine-candidate race six of them Republicans but failed to get the needed majority to win re-election.
"Our strategy worked perfectly," said Republican state Chairman Patricia Brister, "but we know the Democrats will be going all out to save this one."
Mrs. Landrieu got 46 percent of the vote, but Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell, the state elections commissioner, finished second at 27 percent. Unlike other states, in Louisiana, a candidate must win by more than 50 percent or a runoff of the top two finishers is required.
"Fifty-four percent of Louisiana voters said they wanted a new U.S. senator," said Jude Melville, Mrs. Terrell's campaign manager. "That's going to be a hard thing to reverse."
Some analysts had expected the Louisiana contest to determine control of the U.S. Senate, but Republican wins in several close races eliminated that possibility.
Tuesday's third-place finisher, Republican Rep. John Cooksey, who received 14 percent of the vote, already has endorsed Mrs. Terrell.
Several Louisiana political commentators say President Bush's popularity which dominated Tuesday's elections nationwide is the key to getting Mrs. Terrell the turnout she needs to win the coveted seat.
"He is very popular everywhere," Mrs. Brister said, "and even more so in Louisiana. And I feel certain he will come to Louisiana for Suzie."
The president "called this morning, to see what we needed," Mr. Melville said. "And naturally we are excited. He sounded excited as well."
Mr. Bush carried Louisiana by about 135,000 votes, or 8 percentage points, in 2000, while Mrs. Landrieu won her Senate term in 1996 by only about 6,000 votes.
The man in the street expects a fight. "You can expect a boatload of Democrat money in here to try to save face," said Wilbur Dutton, a Metairie heavy-equipment salesman. "I've already had calls soliciting money."
The Republican chairman agrees. "We started at midnight last night," Mrs. Brister said. "A lot of work to be done, but you can imagine how pleased we are."
Mr. Melville said the biggest challenge for his candidate in the runoff election is simply to become widely known.
"Our opponent has 98 percent name recognition in Louisiana," he added, "and there are still some people who have no idea who she [Mrs. Terrell] is. That's our job in the remaining days."
The strategy of Louisiana Republicans was to hope that the multiple candidates would split the vote, holding Mrs. Landrieu under 50 percent and forcing her into a runoff.
The candidates did not differ much on the issues, including prescription drugs for Medicare recipients, education and the war on terrorism. The one major difference between the candidates was on abortion: Mrs. Landrieu is pro-choice, while her opponents all said they were pro-life.
Republicans also ran ads saying that Louisiana needs a senator who will support Mr. Bush. Mrs. Landrieu responded by saying: "My opponents seem to feel that Louisiana needs a senator to represent the president. I say that I need to represent this state."
Mrs. Terrell said she will welcome the president's help during the next month.
"He's going to say, 'I need help and I can help Louisiana.'"

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