- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2014

National Democratic campaign groups have abandoned Sen. Mary L. Landrieu in Louisiana, leaving her massively outspent as she tries to hang onto her seat in a Dec. 6 runoff election to determine the last Senate seat.

And analysts say even if she wins a vote in the Senate tomorrow on approving the Keystone XL pipeline, she’ll still face an uphill climb against Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Republican who is favored because of the state’s increasingly conservative bent and the growing antipathy toward President Obama’s agenda.

“It’s hard to find many political observers in the state who believe that Landrieu’s chances are very good,” said Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report, adding that the senator has had troubled distancing herself from Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “The state has become too Republican and, not unlike the midterm, a vote against Landrieu is a vote against Obama and Reid.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee canceled ad buys in Louisiana in the wake of the Nov. 4 election, and the Democratic National Committee has not been on the air.

Ms. Landrieu would be the fifth incumbent Democrat to be defeated, which would give the GOP a 54-46 advantage over the Democratic Caucus in the Senate.

In the first round of voting on Election Day, Mrs. Landrieu won 42 percent of the vote, which was good for first place but shy of the 50 percent plus one needed for victory. More than half of the electorate voted for her Republican rivals, with Mr. Cassidy winning 41 percent and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a tea party favorite, winning 14 percent.

Since then, Republicans have begun to coalesce around Mr. Cassidy.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. David Vitter, who come from rival GOP camps in Louisiana, appeared at a rally for Mr. Cassidy after the midterm election.

Over the weekend, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who endorsed Mr. Maness earlier this year, and “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, who has become a favorite among social conservatives, campaigned with Mr. Cassidy.

Robert Mann, political science professor at Louisiana State University, said Mrs. Landrieu performed well among African American voters, but said exit polls showed her support among white voters plummeted to 18 percent this year from 33 percent in 2008.

“She is in a very deep hole with white voters in this state,” Mr. Mann said. “That is a very, very big problem for her.”

On the campaign trail, Mrs. Landrieu has touted her clout as chairwoman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and her support of the Keystone XL pipeline, highlighting how the stance has put her at odds with Mr. Obama, who is extremely unpopular in the state.

Ms. Landrieu has pulled out a victory before, winning a runoff election in 1996 and in 2002 in an otherwise GOP-leaning year.

John Diez, a GOP pollster, said Mrs. Landrieu’s re-election hopes could hinge on a “30/30” strategy: winning 30 percent of the white vote and making sure African-American voters compose 30 percent of the electorate. Mr. Diez said the African-American voters have made up 30 percent of the electorate twice in the last 14 years — in 2008 and 2012, when Mr. Obama was on the ballot.

“In order to pull it off, she will have to do the equivalent of carrying fire and water in the same bucket,” Mr. Diez said, adding that in order to increase black voter turnout, she would likely have to embrace Mr. Obama, which would hurt her among white voters.

Looking to toss her a lifeline, Senate Democratic leaders have scheduled a vote on Tuesday on her bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

The vote will come four days after the House approved a bill sponsored by Mr. Cassidy that would authorize construction of the pipeline.

Mr. Mann said he is skeptical that the vote would boost Mrs. Landrieu’s re-election odds.

“I am perplexed why they think that the message that did not work in the primary would catch on like wildfire in the runoff,” Mr. Mann said.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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