- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Seeking to fire up Democratic voters, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the star of a campaign rally Saturday for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, calling the senator a “workhorse” for Louisiana that the state couldn’t afford to lose in Congress.

The former secretary of state and likely 2016 presidential candidate drew a strong crowd to the event, as Landrieu tries to scrape together a win Tuesday and avoid a Dec. 6 runoff.

Clinton, in the Senate for eight years with Landrieu, said the Democratic incumbent puts her state ahead of partisan politics and worked tirelessly to help Louisiana get federal aid after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“She doesn’t shy away from a fight. She refused to let Washington turn its back on Louisiana. The need was too great. The stakes were too high. She was relentless,” Clinton said. She described Landrieu as “a woman with a big heart and a spine of steel.”

Clinton struck a similar tone to the central Landrieu campaign theme, that the three-term senator makes decisions based on the needs of her state. The only Democratic statewide elected official in Louisiana, Landrieu has tried to distance herself from President Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress, who are unpopular in a state that overwhelmingly supported Mitt Romney in 2012.

Republicans have repeatedly tied to tie Landrieu to the president and his policies, suggesting that a vote for the senator is equal to a vote for Obama. Landrieu is targeted nationally in GOP efforts to gain six Senate seats and retake control of the chamber. Polls suggest the race will head to a December runoff between Landrieu and her chief Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.

Cassidy campaigned Saturday in Abita Springs, in a suburban parish north of New Orleans, receiving support at a tea party rally from Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has become popular among his party’s conservative base and a possible candidate for president.

In New Orleans, Clinton suggested Landrieu was the better choice for the state’s middle class and poor residents, touting the senator’s support for equal pay legislation, increased Pell grants for college students and a higher federal minimum wage.

“Go out over these next days, tell everyone you can reach to vote their hopes, not their fears,” Clinton said.

In Abita Springs, Cassidy argued that a vote for him would be decisive in the Republican quest to take control of the Senate.

“If Mary Landrieu is re-elected, Harry Reid will still be Senate majority leader,” he told the rally. “If Bill Cassidy is elected, there will be a majority of conservatives, our country goes in a different direction and the American dream becomes a reality once more.”

Still, Cassidy’s difficulty in revving up support among tea party supporters was evident.

Eleven minutes into his speech, Carson gave his nod to Cassidy, but his endorsement was anything but unequivocal as he laid out the reason for supporting Cassidy over Rob Maness, a Republican political newcomer who enjoys the backing of Sarah Palin. Carson told the crowd to vote for Cassidy because he has a better chance of defeating Landrieu than Maness.

“One of the reasons he is the best candidate is because he has the best chance of winning, and he carries conservative values,” Carson said. “This is not to say that the other tea party candidate, Maness, is not a good man, because he is, and he has the right values also, but he has no chance of winning. Therefore we have to be logical. There will come a time for Maness.”

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Burdeau reported from Abita Springs, Louisiana.

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