GOP seeks unity against Landrieu
Nothing will pull Republicans from their post-election funk and fog faster than renewed hopes of winning control of the U.S. Senate in 2014. Sure, they were confident they would do so last year, only to lose more ground to the Democrats, who now control the upper chamber, 55-45.
Yet Republicans see turning six seats in the midterm elections as doable, in that competitive races are forecast for nine now held by Democrats, seven of them in states won by Mitt Romney.
At the top of the GOP hit list, once again, is Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is seeking her fourth term in a state where Romney thumped the president 58% to 41%.
Ousting her, however, appears to be a chancier proposition than seemed only a year ago. That's confirmed by a recent poll from Public Policy Polling, albeit considered a left-leaning group, that shows the senator handily beating seven leading Republicans matched up against her, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom she bests 49% to 41%.
Now, any fortune-teller who would have conjured up such a number a year ago would have been laughed out of Jackson Square. That it's not preposterous now probably has more to do with the recent decline in Jindal's approval ratings, which sagged into negative territory, both in the PPP poll and another commissioned by the State Medical Society.
Still, Landrieu's job approval did rise to 47% positive, compared to 45% negative, in the PPP poll, a turnaround from 41% and 53% in an August 2010 survey by the same firm.
The senator's improved popularity and the lack of a strong consensus GOP challenger led the pollster to conclude that Landrieu is "in a stronger position for re-election probably than a lot of people would expect."
That may be so, but consider that the current climate is the most favorable that Landrieu will experience from now to the election. These days, she is the subject of fawning TV commercials being run for her benefit by the American Petroleum Institute, befitting the rare Democrat who votes with Big Oil. Also, barely a cross word has been publicly said about her recently, which will change once the GOP attack machine gets ginned up next year.
Two other sets of numbers in the PPP poll should concern the Landrieu camp. One is the 54% to 40% breakdown of poll respondents who voted for Romney or Barack Obama—three points less than the actual spread. The other is the mere 46% to 43% Landrieu lead over Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who fared best among the six Republicans matched up against her. Those figures taken together would suggest a statistical dead heat, despite that Dardenne's name recognition is no more than 70%.
The lieutenant governor is not inclined to run for the Senate in 2014, having set his sights on the Governor's Mansion in 2015. So which Republican will?
Three months ago, the supposed answer was Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, who just had easily won re-election with the help of his new consultant Timmy Teepell. The partner in OnMessage Consulting not only is Jindal's former chief of staff and current top political adviser, but also is wired into the National Republican Committee, the state party and the various organizations that anchor the social conservative movement. His signing on with the congressman strongly signaled that the governor would not run for the Senate and that no Republican but Cassidy should.
But the unforeseen occurred shortly after the 2012 election, when Cassidy informed Teepell that his services were no longer needed. The reason for the parting remains unclear, but the effect was profound. The shock wave sent through Republican ranks cracked an opening for other potential challengers. Reps. John Fleming of Minden and Charles Boustany of Lafayette soon showed interest, as did former Rep. Jeff Landry of New Iberia.
Perhaps the most intriguing name to surface is that of Chas Roemer, the new chairman of BESE and son of former Gov. Buddy Roemer.
Not all of the above will run. It's doubtful that even two will, because of the strong pressure that will come to bear from Washington and big donors to unify behind one candidate. If so, despite her hopeful showing in early polling, 18 months from now Landrieu figures to be fighting for her political life—one more time.
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