Mary Landrieu Lacks the Allies She Might Need to Win the Louisiana Runoff

The cavalry is coming to influence the country’s final Senate race, but Democrats’ biggest players are keeping their distance.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) speaks during a press conference to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill April 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. The act would ensure equal payment for equal work for both women and men. 
National Journal
Andrea Drusch
Add to Briefcase
Andrea Drusch
Nov. 4, 2014, 4:49 p.m.

For Louisi­ana, Elec­tion Day is just the be­gin­ning. For Mary Landrieu, it might be the be­gin­ning of the end.

Landrieu and Rep. Bill Cas­sidy both fell short of the 50 per­cent needed to win in the state’s un­usu­al “jungle primary” sys­tem. As the top vote-get­ters, they now ad­vance to a Dec. 6 run­off—a one-month face-off sure to draw some of the coun­try’s biggest donors to the only show left in town.

We all knew this was com­ing. Louisi­ana’s chan­ging polit­ics, along with many oth­er South­ern states this cycle, has made Landrieu’s race a prime pickup op­por­tun­ity for Re­pub­lic­ans. Cas­sidy has led many of the pre-primary polls pit­ting him head-to-head with Landrieu. But in Louisi­ana’s primary sys­tem, mul­tiple can­did­ates from the same party can com­pete in the Elec­tion Day race, and much of Cas­sidy’s sup­port was split with tea-party fa­vor­ite re­tired Lt. Col. Rob Maness.

Already, more than $10 mil­lion in post-Elec­tion Day air­time has been re­served by party com­mit­tees and out­side groups in Louisi­ana. That’s on top of the $40 mil­lion already spent.

But un­like oth­er races where com­pet­ing out­side groups have helped keep spend­ing near par­ity, Landrieu will be go­ing at this without the help of some of her party’s biggest al­lies. Top-spend­ing green groups, as well as sev­er­al wo­men’s-health-fo­cused groups known for their epic fun­drais­ing abil­it­ies, have said they won’t be com­ing to Landrieu’s aid this Novem­ber, even if the Sen­ate ma­jor­ity is at stake.

That’s partly be­cause Landrieu has fo­cused much of her cam­paign around the clout she brings to Louisi­ana’s top in­dus­tries through her po­s­i­tion as chair of the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee. Though it’s a po­s­i­tion of great value to her in-state sup­port­ers—many of whom have con­trib­uted dir­ectly to her cam­paign—it’s one that’s put her at odds with some of the biggest out­side spend­ers for Demo­crats.

To­geth­er five eco-fo­cused groups this cycle—Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil Ac­tion Fund, Nex­t­Gen Ac­tion Fund, En­vir­on­ment­al De­fense Ac­tion Fund, League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters, and the Si­erra Club—have spent more than $85 mil­lion on the midterms, primar­ily on vul­ner­able Sen­ate Demo­crats. When asked wheth­er they’d come to res­cue Landrieu, sev­er­al of the groups turned up their noses.

“I just don’t see it,” NRDC Dir­ect­or Heath­er Taylor-Miesle told Na­tion­al Journ­al. “NRDC Ac­tion Fund has no plans to en­gage in the Louisi­ana race this elec­tion cycle—our ef­forts are fo­cused com­pletely on elect­ing cham­pi­ons who will ad­vance ef­forts to re­duce dan­ger­ous car­bon pol­lu­tions from power plants and lead the way on en­vir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tion.”

Landrieu also lacks the back­ing of the Demo­crat­ic power­house EMILY’s List, which has helped her fel­low Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic wo­men raise big money this cycle with email blasts and fun­drais­ing lists. EMILY’s List backed Landrieu in pre­vi­ous races, and has been her single largest sup­port­er since 1995. But fol­low­ing her vote for a 2002 bill to out­law some forms of abor­tion, the Louisi­ana Demo­crat hasn’t been on their list. Landrieu hasn’t asked for their en­dorse­ment, and EMILY’s List no longer sees her as meet­ing their qual­i­fic­a­tions of be­ing a Demo­crat­ic wo­man law­maker who sup­ports abor­tion rights.

She also isn’t an en­dorsee of Planned Par­ent­hood Ac­tion Fund, which has spent heav­ily on turnout ef­forts and ground game for Landrieu’s fel­low Sens. Kay Hagan, Jeanne Shaheen, and Mark Ud­all. A spokes­wo­man from that group said the de­cision to get in­volved in Louisi­ana would de­pend on wheth­er enough money was left after the races they’d already taken on.

The con­trast with Cas­sidy will be stark. An in­tra-party rally around the Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger is al­most guar­an­teed. Sen. Pat Roberts’s race in Kan­sas, which was run on a sim­il­ar time line, fea­tured a parade of sur­rog­ates from across the GOP spec­trum, com­bined with en­dorse­ments by many of the groups that had gone to war with him dur­ing the primary. Sim­il­arly, both es­tab­lish­ment and con­ser­vat­ive groups have already lined up air­time for a run­off.

There’s already big money at play. The Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee pur­chased $3.4 mil­lion in air­time with broad­cast sta­tions and cable pro­viders. The Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee re­served $2 mil­lion in air­time, and plans to spend more after Nov. 4 than it did be­fore.

The Koch broth­ers-backed group Free­dom Part­ners has booked $1.8 mil­lion; the con­ser­vat­ive PAC End­ing Spend­ing Ac­tion Fund re­served $2.5 mil­lion; and the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ation, which sup­ports Cas­sidy in this race, re­served just over $1 mil­lion.

Cas­sidy’s cam­paign has also pur­chased sev­er­al sets of ads, the first of which is to be­gin at 6 a.m. on Wed­nes­day, Nov. 5—just hours after the polls close.

One play­er whose game plan re­mains un­known is the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce. The cham­ber has been a ma­jor force in push­ing es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans through their primar­ies this cycle, as well as pick­ing up the pieces to unite con­ser­vat­ives for their can­did­ate in the gen­er­al elec­tions. Their in­volve­ment on be­half of Cas­sidy would be a boon to his run­off ef­forts, but Landrieu was rumored to be the cham­ber’s sole Demo­crat­ic en­dorsee for the Sen­ate this cycle.

The group has stayed mum on the race since ini­tial re­ports in Ju­ly sug­ges­ted that it wouldn’t en­dorse Landrieu if Sen­ate con­trol hung on her race. Spokes­wo­man Blair Holmes said the group would ana­lyze the situ­ation after Elec­tion Day, and that “no con­sid­er­a­tions or de­cisions will be made un­til then.”

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