Sen. Landrieu faces tough road as La. becomes more red

Sen. Mary Landrieu qualified for re-election Wednesday. (Source: Sabrina Wilson)
Sen. Mary Landrieu qualified for re-election Wednesday. (Source: Sabrina Wilson)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - Sen. Mary Landrieu qualified for re-election Wednesday. It is a race that has the state's senior senator in a fight for her political life.

Landrieu, a Democrat, chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has value for Louisiana, but is still in a very tight squeeze with Republican challenger Bill Cassidy applying a lot of the political pressure. Cassidy also qualified for the race Wednesday.

"And how it will come out nobody knows," said veteran GOP Strategist Jim Farwell. "It's very, very close, according to the polling between Cassidy and Landrieu. Either one of them would have an opportunity to win it."

Landrieu is fighting to continue her representation of a state that has shifted dramatically, and geography has nothing to do with the shift.

"The entire South has shifted red, so she has a tall climb, which is for any Democrat to hold a statewide seat in the South," said Tulane University Political Analyst Mike Sherman.

Farwell was also asked about Landrieu's predicament. When asked about why her re-election bid faces serious challenges, Farwell replied, "Because there's antipathy among a lot of voters to President Obama, and that is a problem. The reason the race is competitive is because Mary is a very good campaigner and she's the chairman of the energy committee."

The race, because of its national implications, is playing like a national contest. The control of the U.S. Senate is at stake, and super PACs flush with money are in the game - some targeting Landrieu, others slamming Cassidy.

"One of the problems with American politics is that the influx of outside money has taken control of the campaigns in many ways, away from the campaigns themselves because of the money," said Farwell. "It's not clear to me that in Louisiana they will ultimately have that much effect. As I said, you've got a very tight Senate race, a state that on one hand has trended Republican, which helps Cassidy, on the other hand Mary Landrieu is a formidable campaigner."

And then there's the Congressional race Edwin Edwards qualified for on Wednesday. He is favored to land in the runoff as he faces several Republicans in the contest to represent the 6th Congressional District. Garrett Graves, who was Gov. Bobby Jindal's point man on coastal restoration issues, is also in the race and has name recognition. Still, Edwards shot at a runoff spot seems good.

"He has such a strong personality that there are people who usually wouldn't vote for a Democrat who may make an exception for Edwards. That will be a very interesting race," said Farwell.

"Listen, if a convicted felon - our former governor - wins, it would in essence be an embarrassment to the state. But he does have a great connection with voters," said Sherman.

And while the state is trending red, New Orleans remains a heavily Democratic area. However, it's not as reliable as it used to be for Democrats running statewide.

"The roadmap to statewide elective office for a Democrat always involved Southeast Louisiana and the metro New Orleans area," said Sherman. "With the population shift since Hurricane Katrina, the metro New Orleans area just doesn't have as many people and as many voters as it used to have, so a statewide elected official who is going to be a Democrat needs to devise a new coalition that branches out to some of those independents in the state."

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