If you haven’t been paying attention to the Louisiana Senate runoff, we don’t blame you. The race between Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy could have been a defining contest that determined which party held a majority in the Senate.
Instead, Republicans swept the Senate in November, and the Louisiana race has become an afterthought.
To be sure, Landrieu has a history of pulling off unlikely wins. But when voters go to the polls Saturday, she is expected to follow suit of most southern Democrats who faced re-election this year. Democrats have been dramatically outspent in the runoff, and Landrieu trails in polls.
In addition to Landrieu's race, voters in The Pelican State will also cast ballots Saturday in 5th and 6th District races. House Republicans are expected to retain both seats.
Polls close at 9 p.m eastern. Here’s what you need to know before that happens: The Numbers Don’t Look Good for Landrieu It's easy math: Landrieu narrowly edged Cassidy on Election Day, 42 percent to 41 percent. This would be good for her, except there was another Republican on the ballot, Rob Maness, who took 14 percent of the vote. With Maness off the ballot, most of his supporters are expected to defect to Cassidy.
Recent polling reflects that reality. A survey from WPA Opinion Research conducted last week for a group supporting Cassidy put the congressman ahead, 57 percent to 33 percent. Other polls conducted in the past month — though almost all of them have been automated — showed Cassidy leading by anywhere from 11 to 26 points.
What's more, the early vote breakdown did not forecast great things for Landrieu, either. Black voter turnout declined from early voting before the Nov. 4 election. That’s a problem for Landrieu, who needs black voters to turn out in force for her to win.
“It all comes down to minority intensity,” Republican pollster John Couvillon said of Landrieu’s chances. “And if she can pick up any of the Maness vote, which I personally doubt.”
... And Neither Does the Spending It’s not just the polls. Republicans have outspent Democrats dramatically in the runoff. The Associated Press calculated Republicans spent 97 cents of every dollar in the overtime period. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee canceled their ad reservations for Landrieu two days after the election.
But where the DSCC has been absent, Landrieu’s Senate Democratic colleagues have been very generous. More than 20 Democratic senators donated to her runoff campaign from their leadership PACs and campaign accounts, according to her pre-runoff fundraising report. Three House members also donated.
The Messaging Isn’t Working Out Too Well, Either Landrieu is known for snatching victories from the jaws of defeat. But this year, the national environment that sunk many of her colleagues seems likely to overwhelm her as well. President Barack Obama is incredibly unpopular in Louisiana, and Cassidy has taken full advantage of that fact.
“It’s really not about Cassidy,” said Louisiana pollster Bernie Pinsonat. "The only issue he’s talked about is she supported Barack Obama ... (and that's) all he needed to talk about.”
On Nov. 4, Landrieu’s messaging took a blow when Republicans swept the Senate, obliterating her major selling point: clout. Before the runoff, Landrieu touted her Senate seniority and chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee if Democrats held the majority. From that post, Landrieu argued, she would get the Keystone XL pipeline passed — a big boon for Louisiana, where the oil industry is a major part of the economy.
But with Republicans in the majority, Landrieu is not going to be chairwoman if she wins. An effort to pass Keystone last month — a blatantly political move to help Landrieu get re-elected — fell one vote short . Meanwhile, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Cassidy a seat on the Energy committee.
In the final days, Landrieu focused on Cassidy allegedly billing the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, where he teaches part-time, for more hours than he actually worked.
“He’s gonna be fighting more than President Obama, if he gets elected, which I doubt, he will be fighting subpoenas, because this is going to be under investigation,” Landrieu said in her closing remarks at the final debate on Monday.
Correction 12:15 p.m. An earlier version of this story misspelled John Couvillon's name.
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