Politics are turning upside down in the Louisiana Senate race, where Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu finds herself under attack from a deep-pocketed and well-connected environmentalist.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge-fund investor turned environmental activist, may launch an advertising campaign panning Landrieu for supporting the Keystone XL pipeline. The three-term senator seeking reelection in a state much redder than it was six years ago says Steyer’s criticism could actually help her win.
“It would probably help me in my state if he would run his ads,” Landrieu said in an interview shortly after taking the gavel to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week. Her thinking is that voters who live in a state dependent on oil and natural gas like Louisiana would like a candidate more if she’s facing criticism from the environmental Left for supporting a project that would foster more petroleum-related energy production, which the 1,700-mile cross-border pipeline would do.
Republicans, who see winning Louisiana as a key step in their quest to regain control of the Senate, are spinning it the other way. Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says that Steyer could actually end up helping Landrieu’s main GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, win the race.
“Having a couple million dollars saying you’re doing the wrong thing on the environment are dog-whistle ads,” Collins said in an interview. “People who care about the environment will hear it, and those who don’t will miss it.” That means, Collins concluded, environment-minded voters may stay at home, instead of voting for Landrieu, whom they’re “predisposed” to vote for initially. “It may not show up in the pro-Cassidy vote, but it could have the effect of vote-compressing” on Landrieu’s side, Collins said.
As for Landrieu’s line of thinking — that Steyer could actually help her win — Collins said: “I could see the logic. I don’t think it actually bears out.”
Brian Willis, a spokesman representing Steyer’s super PAC, NextGen Climate, declined to comment for this story. He also wouldn’t confirm when Steyer will decide whether to target Landrieu.
Touting a website earlier this month, Steyer’s group is calling on Internet users to help choose a candidate for the group to target in its next TV ad. Others on the list to choose from include three Senate hopefuls: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota; and Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga. Another potential target is Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is up for reelection in 2016.
Steyer’s previous efforts include campaigns criticizing the opponents of now-Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Democratic now-Gov. Terry McAullife of Virginia.
As the first and so far only Democrat in Steyer’s line of fire this year, Landrieu is the most interesting — and riskiest — potential target he’s considered yet. Steyer isn’t the only billionaire targeting Louisiana’s senior senator though.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative organization funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has already spent $2.6 million against her, focusing mostly on her support for President Obama’s health care law.
“I have billionaires on both sides, and I’m exactly where I should be, which is right in the middle,” Landrieu said. “I don’t think people are eventually going to pay a lot of attention to these billionaires on both sides.”
The Keystone XL pipeline would send more than 700,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. The southern part of the project is already operating, but the top half needs approval from the Obama administration to cross the Canada-U.S. border. It’s been pending at the State Department for more than five years. A final decision could come as soon as this spring or summer.
What We're Following See More »
At the end of the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump if he stands by his statement that Hillary Clinton didn't have the look of a president. Trump responded by saying Holt misquoted him, instead saying that Clinton "doesn't have the stamina." Clinton responded by saying that when Trump visits 112 countries as secretary of state, he can talk to her about stamina.
Donald Trump, when pressed by Lester Holt on why he finally admitted that President Obama was born in America, repeated his widely debunked claim that it was started by Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton went point by point on how race can so often determine the treatment that people receive, mentioning recent shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte, calling for restored trust between communities and police, and demanding criminal justice reform. Trump responded by calling for law and order and touting his endorsements from police unions. He then said that “African Americans are living in hell,” saying they are just walking down the street and getting “shot ... being decimated by crime."
Just as Hillary Clinton was inviting debate viewers to visit her site for real-time fact checking, there appeared to be a problem with Donald Trump's own campaign website. For about a 15-minute period, a blank page or an error message appeared when we tried to load the Trump site.
Donald Trump has come out in the first segment of this debate raring to go. Trump has interrupted nearly every answer being given by Hillary Clinton, talking over her time and again. Clinton is sticking to her guns, smiling while Trump speaks and then calling on people to go to her website and see the fact checking being done.