While Republicans plan to put her vote in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act front and center in the campaign, Landrieu is ready to frame the health care law as an asset.
“What I am going to say is I am very proud of the affordable health care act. Very proud that I voted for it,” she said. “I am looking forward to this debate very offensively. I am not the least bit defensive about this and cannot wait to explain to the people of my state why this is so much better than what they’ve been going through the last 10 years.”
Landrieu will indeed need to do a lot of explaining on health care in an increasingly red state. “Democrats are dying in Louisiana,” Pinsonat added.
The statehouse and state Senate are both controlled by Republicans, who increased their edge in 2011. Only one Pelican State congressman is a Democrat: Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, who represents a heavily Democratic majority-minority district.
“People in Louisiana are proud of her because she fights for Louisiana,” Richmond said. “It doesn’t matter what side she’s on, she gets it done.”
The way Louisiana elections work, she may have some time to sell that message to her constituents while Republicans battle it out.
Under the state’s “jungle primary” law, Landrieu will be on the November 2014 ballot with all her Republican challengers and challengers from other parties, too. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the top two finishers head to a runoff. Given that unique system, it behooves the GOP to rally behind one candidate.
Insiders said a GOP consensus has already begun to emerge: Rep. Bill Cassidy.
“If I had to guess,” one unaligned Louisiana Republican operative said, “everybody would line up behind him as the best chance to beat Mary.”
“Assuming he runs against her, Bill Cassidy will be the strongest opponent she’s faced,” said nonpartisan Louisiana political analyst John Maginnis, who runs LaPolitics.com. “She’s run against some people who are very hard right or are a little scary, but Cassidy is not.”
“He’s really a centrist guy — charity hospital doctor,” Maginnis explained.
Cassidy worked for years at a hospital for the uninsured. A board-certified gastroenterologist, he still practices medicine on weekdays when he’s back in the district.
Cassidy’s office said the congressman remains focused on his current job.
If he decides to run, it’s far from clear that Cassidy would get a clear shot at the GOP nomination.
Rep. John Fleming is also eyeing a bid against Landrieu. A Fleming aide said the congressman believes there needs to be a strong conservative in the race and was considering a Senate run.
Another contender mentioned in GOP circles is tea-party-aligned Rep. Jeff Landry. The freshman lawmaker faces an uphill runoff election against Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. on Saturday. Whether he wins or loses, some Louisiana Republicans think he might ponder a statewide bid.