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Brewing GOP Primary Could Spoil Landrieu Challenge

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

“He’s focused on reviving the economy, creating jobs and minimizing the damage of Obamacare,” Cummins said.

Even though he hasn’t made an announcement, insiders told CQ Roll Call that Cassidy has been making moves that would indicate a potential run. Cassidy’s appearances outside his district have not gone unseen.

“Cassidy is the only person I’ve noticed who is doing things outside of the district,” said a plugged-in Louisiana Republican operative unaligned with any candidate. “I do think he is the only one laying the groundwork for a campaign.”

Cassidy has been making moves outside Louisiana, too. This year, the congressman met with officials from the Club for Growth, an influential group that supports fiscally conservative candidates.

Whether and how outside groups and Louisiana political money brokers coalesce could go a long way to determining just how hard-fought the GOP’s intraparty Senate battle will be — or if there will be one at all.

At the end of 2011, the last year for which the club’s conservative scores are available, Cassidy had a lifetime score of 79 percent. Fleming had 96 percent, Landry had 94 percent and Boustany had 68 percent.

Longtime pollster Bernie Pinsonat, who has worked for candidates of both parties, said that despite all the talk, he expected the GOP field to shake out to one serious contender and also-rans.

“At this point in time, the betting money is that the Republicans will have one person who is the man or woman and the money will be behind that person,” he said.

But privately, Republicans in the state aren’t so sure. Louisiana’s “jungle” primary election law means all candidates, Republicans and Democrats, show up on the November 2014 ballot. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the top two finishers head to a post-Election Day runoff.

That means the primary would last months longer than any other state. As a result, Louisiana GOP operatives worried that a divisive multicandidate field would leave Republicans with a weakened — and perhaps weaker — candidate in a runoff against Landrieu.

“That’s more of the story here,” the operative said. “Is it going to be a bloodletting?”

Fleming, speaking to CQ Roll Call from Shreveport, La., on Tuesday afternoon, reflected that “both in the House and the Senate,” there had been a number of GOP primaries pitting a conservative candidate versus a more moderate one.

“I just think we’re going to tend to see more of that,” he said.

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