Sen. Mary L. Landrieu has one message for the Republicans salivating over her seat in 2014: Bring it on.
She’s never had an easy race, but the Democrat’s third re-election fight looks daunting in a post-earmark, post-health care law era.
Louisiana has grown more Republican, the midterm electorate is less favorable to her than a presidential electorate, and she’s voted 97 percent with President Barack Obama, who is deeply unpopular in the Pelican State.
The president took just 41 percent there last month, and Landrieu is the only statewide elected Democratic official.
But the senator starts out with some real advantages. The Landrieu brand is strong in the state: Her father was mayor of New Orleans in the 1970s, and her brother, Mitch Landrieu, is the current mayor of the Big Easy. Republican contenders will probably be locked in a long battle to take her on. And she has a clear argument to make to voters: She has a record of putting Louisiana first, no matter what.
Landrieu said voters want someone who can work across the aisle with presidents of either party to get results.
“That is truly what my election is going to be determined on — is my record of effectiveness on behalf of the people of Louisiana,” Landrieu said in an interview. “Frankly, I’d put my record up against anyone that has ever represented the state in the United States Senate.”
But voters may not end up casting ballots in a referendum on her effectiveness. If Republicans have their way, voters will be making a choice between a Democrat who votes with her party most of the time or a Republican who votes a more conservative line.
“In the past, Louisiana has overlooked her more liberal voting record because she has been good at bringing in dollars to the state. But you’re entering a new world,” said Timmy Teepell, a Louisiana Republican operative who served as Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff during his first term. He said in a post-earmark era in which the ability of Landrieu to bring home federal dollars is limited, “it makes it awfully tough for people to overlook her liberal voting record.”
Pelican State political hands repeatedly mentioned her vote in favor of “Obamacare” as one of Landrieu’s biggest hurdles.
“If she wouldn’t have voted for the health care, she would have a decent chance for re-election,” said longtime Louisiana pollster Bernie Pinsonat, who has worked for both Democrats and Republicans. “I’m not saying she can’t get re-elected, but ...” he trailed off.