- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Republican Senate candidate Bill Cassidy said Wednesday that President Barack Obama has mishandled the U.S. effort to defeat the Islamic State militant group.

Cassidy, a GOP congressman, said the president initially ignored the buildup of the extremist group and misjudged its strength. He repeated Republican criticism that Obama hasn’t presented a full plan for the U.S-led military campaign.

“The president as commander in chief has done a poor job. What he has presented so far is not a plan. It is a beginning of steps,” Cassidy said at a luncheon for a local chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors. “I think the president has missed, missed and missed opportunities. He thinks if America doesn’t lead, someone else will.”

Cassidy is the leading Republican challenger to third-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is in a difficult race for re-election. Much of Cassidy’s strategy to oust Landrieu involves tying her to the president, who is highly unpopular in Louisiana. He described the Senate race as a referendum on Obama’s policies.

The election is Nov. 4, and with eight candidates in the race, it is expected to go to a December runoff.

Both Landrieu and Cassidy voted to authorize the U.S. military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State militants in the Middle East. A U.S.-led coalition has been launching airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the group, but the militants have lost little territory.

Asked whether he supports broader American engagement and troops on the ground, Cassidy said he couldn’t answer that question because Obama hasn’t offered a military strategy.

“If it’s going to be some half-hearted measure destined to fail but it gives political cover, no, absolutely not. If it is something which seems to have a credible opportunity to further our national interests, then we would consider it. But until I have a context of what the president’s plan, that is an impossible question to answer,” the congressman said.

Cassidy said he wanted more information about what assistance Turkey will offer in the effort against the Islamic State group and a broader assessment of who is participating in the U.S.-led coalition.


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