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Cong. Bill Cassidy Defeats Mary Landrieu In La. Runoff, Extending GOP Senate Majority

Capitol Christmas Dusk

To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Congressman Bill Cassidy has defeated Senator Mary Landrieu in today’s runoff election in Louisiana:

In the final insult of a devastating 2014 election for Democrats, Sen. Mary Landrieu, the party’s last remaining statewide officeholder from the Deep South, was trounced Saturday in the head-to-head Louisiana Senate runoff election.

Republican Bill Cassidy’s resounding victory is the ninth Senate seat picked up by the GOP in this year’s elections, three more than the party needed to take control of the chamber. That gives them a four-seat cushion going into 2016, when the party is seeking to protect its first Senate majority since 2006. The next election cycle’s Senate map is as bad for Republicans as this year’s was for Democrats, with the GOP forced to defend seven seats in states President Barack Obama carried twice.

Landrieu, the three-term incumbent who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, found herself cut off and left for dead by national Democrats after party strategists decided she had no realistic path to victory in Saturday’s Bayou State runoff. She lost much of her clout when Democrats lost their majority, and her failure to pass legislation to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline in the lame duck session last month made her look politically impotent.

Cassidy, a medical doctor, first elected to a Baton Rouge-area congressional seat in 2008, ran an uninspiring but mistake-free campaign that capitalized on increasing hostility to the Democratic primary in Louisiana and throughout the Deep South.

It was the final major race of a 2014 election cycle in which Republicans won nearly every battleground Senate election, gained three governorships and at least 246 House seats. Democrats’ efforts to localize many of these contests fell flat, and Republicans succeeded in making the election a referendum on the unpopular president.

Obama — and his 39-percent approval rating in the November exit poll — has been an anchor on Landrieu all year. In 2008, Landrieu won a majority on election night — pulling 205,000 more votes than Obama and avoiding a runoff.

But the reputation she cultivated as a moderate was no match for the increasing toxicity of the Obama brand in the state.

During the open primary election last month, Landrieu won just 18 percent of the white vote, according to exit polls, compared to 33 percent six years ago. She got 42 percent overall; since no candidate earned a majority of the vote, the top two finishers went to a runoff.

Cassidy, 57, ran a low-profile campaign featuring fewer public events. He made the remarkable decision to spend Wednesday and Thursday in Washington for routine House votes, a reflection of his confidence.

The only debate of the runoff took place Monday and produced nothing close to a game-changing moment. Cassidy was awkward and stiff, while Landrieu tried to gin up controversy over him earning $20,000-a-year to practice medicine at Louisiana State University while collecting his congressional paycheck.

Landrieu found herself on the defensive for improperly billing taxpayers more than $30,000 in private charter flights to campaign events since 2002. But the debate mainly focused on the issues that have defined the contest, such as Obamacare, gun control and abortion. Landrieu is on the wrong side of the state’s electorate on each.

She made two significant strategic miscalculations. First, she thought she could win outright in November and spent accordingly — burning through almost $16 million, more than double what Cassidy spent. Second, she thought control of the Senate could come down to the results in Louisiana, which would guarantee national Democrats spent millions — or maybe tens of millions — on her behalf.

Neither came to pass.

In the end, the race was called by the Associated Press within a half hour after the polls had closed at 9pm Eastern, as it was already becoming apparent that Cassidy was well on his way to defeating Landrieu by the double digit lead that the limited amount of polling that had been done in the race has been predicting since Election Day at least was showing. In the end, Landrieu never really had a chance, though. She was trailing Cassidy in an expected head-to-head runoff match for weeks before Election Day, and once it became clear that Republicans had gained control of the Senate on Election Night in November, Democrats largely lost interest in doing anything to help Landrieu keep her seat. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee pulled nearly all its media money out of the state only days after the election, for example, and Landrieu received only limited support from her fellow Democrats when she went to the floor of the Senate in a pathetically desperate effort to secure approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project that fell one vote short of passing the Senate thanks to insufficient support from the Senate Democratic Caucus.

As a preliminary matter, this means that the Republicans have won nine formerly Democratic seats in the 2014 midterms, certainly a wave as impressive as the one that brought them control of the House in 2010, and one that gives them a 54-46 majority in the upper Chamber of Congress when January rolls around. Not only is this larger than many forecasters had predicted we’d see when the process was said and done, yours truly included, but it also potentially bodes well for the GOP’s ability to hold on to their Senate majority in 2016. As I’ve noted in the past, just as Republicans faced a favorable Senate map in 2014 with a number of Democrats seeking re-election in states that Republicans dominate, they face a number of challenges in 2016 with the need to defend seats in states that Democrats typically win such as Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Wisconsin, along with the need to deal with Presidential-year level turnout, which tends to favor Democratic candidates, in states such as Florida and Ohio. Had they entered 2016 with a thin majority like 52-46 or 51-49, Republicans would be in serious danger of losing their majority two years from now. With a 54-46 majority, the GOP has far more breathing room than they would have otherwise and could very well hold on to the Senate regardless of what happens in the Presidential race.

That’s two years in the future, though, which is a lifetime in politics. For now, the GOP can revel in what amounts to an astounding election victory. The question now is what they will do with it.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Davebo says:

    Expected and I’m not thrilled with the result but then Mary Landrieu was only marginally a democrat for obvious reasons.

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  2. Pharoah Narim says:

    If you don’t have 60 votes in today’s Senate, you don’t have nothin’. Not a big deal.

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  3. Stonetools says:

    The “Southern strategy” worked!
    The Deep South is now as solidly Republican as it once was solidly Democratic. Do you think the MSM is going to investigate why that happened? Ha ha, sometimes I really amuse myself…
    I would have liked it if Mary Landrieu had held on, but really, her fate was sealed when a black man was elected President. She managed to cheat fate in a landslide Democratic year in 2008 but this time around it was clear that white Louisianabs were never going to vote again for the n!gg3r lover, which is pretty much how Republicans portrayed Red state Demicratic candidates this cycle. When you consider that one of her constituents was the Duck Dynasty patriarch, and another told an NPR reporter, ” I don’t vote for no black man” , you sort of knew the way the tide was running.
    Oh well, at least the Democratic Party is now more ideologically coherent. The 2016 map looks very favorable for the Democrats, and once it becomes clear that Tea Party agenda is now the Republican Party agenda, I expect the tide will run the other way-but not in the South, unfortunately.
    Doug may hope that the Republicans adopt more of a libertarian agenda, but let’s face it, that’s not what has driven the Republican resurgence since 2010. The Republicans don’t want so much less government as more “white supremacist” and “male supremacist ” government. That’s why they are uninterested in things like NSA reform and very interested in curbing abortion rights and opposing social spending of any kind, which they see as a giveaway to “those people.” Cassidy got elected on just such an agenda. We will see how it works out when white Louisianans also discover he wants also to “reform” Social Security and Medicare.

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  4. superdestroyer says:

    @Stonetools:

    The only question for all of the pundits and wonks who keep saying that the Republicans have a lock on the south: When did Virginia move out of the South? (the same question could also be applied to Missouri)

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  5. Andre Kenji says:

    @superdestroyer: Virginia is not part of the Deep South.

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  6. superdestroyer says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    The state with the most confederate battlefields and the state with the Confederate White House is not part of the deep south. It seems that too many wonks and punidts want to define the “Deep South” to fit there thesis. Using the definition reported in the media, the deep south is made up of four states and who cares whether they have 8 Republicans Senators?

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  7. Tyrell says:

    Landrieu was given some shabby treatment by some of the Democrats. Not a good sign. And this is not some kind of racial thing either.

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  8. stonetools says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Louisiana is part of the Deep South. Virginia and Missouri are both Border South states. That’s pretty much how they’ve been defined, since the beginning.(Google “Missouri Compromise”) Virginia has most battlefields, because it was the principal Northern invasion route (“On to Richmond!” was the Northern battle cry). Missouri was split between North and South , sending almost equal numbers of troops to both sides and was the focus of considerable guerilla warfare. Dude, do you have history books where you are?
    Virginia is now a Purple state principally because of the influx of Yankees and immigrants into northern Virginia. Virginia north of Fredericksburg is an outpost of Blue America in what is otherwise a reliably Red State.

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  9. Davebo says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The number of confederate battlefields is irrelevent. Virginia has dense urban areas populated by upper middle class educated people.

    The GOP used to be able to appeal to educated well to do voters. But it has decided it’s easier to take advantage of hatred and ignorance.

    And they are right.

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  10. stonetools says:

    @Tyrell:

    You might want to listen to the audio at this link. Excerpt:

    Broussard has all kinds of problems with the law itself — that it’s wrong to force people to buy insurance, that it will make businesses hire less. But there’s something else that bothers him: The law is the signature achievement of a man Broussard never wanted to see become president.

    “I don’t vote for black people, lady,” he says. “No, ma’am. I don’t vote for black people. They got their place, I got my place. That’s the way I was raised.”

    Broussard says Landrieu votes too much in line with the president’s agenda -– he calls her “Obama Lady.” But he insists that he might still have voted for her this November if she hadn’t supported the Affordable Care Act, because he acknowledges Landrieu has helped the people of her state tremendously since she became a senator in 1997.

    But hey, ignore the audio and keep telling yourself “It’s not racial.” I’m sure you’ll feel more comfortable that way.

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  11. Guarneri says:

    I hope and I pray Democrats continue to fool themselves by blaming stupidity and racism for their election problems.

    Talk about stupid…….

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  12. Pinky says:

    Dems did everything but pay for campaign ads against her. The coin of the realm in politics is loyalty – I have to suspect that she’d crossed someone for her to have been treated so badly.

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  13. MBunge says:

    This now opens the door for Dems to do in the Northeast and West what the GOP did in the South, which is radicalize Blue states and the white voters in those states. Let’s see the politics of cultural resentment applied to those Red states that receive government goodies and let’s see Democrats able to link Republicans in New Jersey to the educational and social welfare policies of Missouri without having to worry about whining from Missouri Dems.

    I’m not saying it is a good thing but this will untie Democratic hands when it comes to fighting fire with fire.

    Mike

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  14. Davebo says:

    @Pinky:

    Well that’s certainly the view of writers at Hotair and Town Hall but the facts are.

    1. Landrieu was a long shot to say the least.

    2. The DNC had already borrowed ten million dollars as a last minute cash boost that was required due to rather anemic fund raising among democrats and that disinterest was obviously reflected in turnout for this years election.

    Anyone who would laughbly state

    Dems did everything but pay for campaign ads against her.

    really can’t be taken serious.

    Michael Benett, the chair of the DSCC did what he could for Landrieu and to say that the Democratic establishment abandoned Landrieu reflects a seriously naive understanding of national electoral politics.

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  15. Davebo says:

    Does anyone really believe that a massive ad purchase in the final days of the campaign could overcome a whopping 30% deficit?

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  16. humanoid.panda says:

    @Davebo: That is the heart of the issue, really. Money is important (very important, too important), but in a high profile race like that, with two competent candidates with decent organization, I’m willing to bet Cassidy could have spent twice the money her spent, and Landreau twice the money she spent, without moving the needle that much.

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  17. stonetools says:

    @Davebo:

    Not to mention allowing that XL Pipeline vote, which was meant to show that Landrieu was a supporter of the oil and gas industry. That p*ssed off a lot of pro-environment voters, who are now virtually dancing on Landrieu’s grave-a mistake, IMO.
    Landrieu is simply the final casualty of the realignment achieved by the Republican’s Southern strategy. Seen that way, there was very little that Landrieu or anyone else could have done to save the seat for Democrats. The whole history of the Southern ideology of white supremacy was against her, and her positions on individual issues mattered little here. I’m betting that if you had given voters a blind test on the issues, Landrieu would have come out on top, but the Republicans successfully painted her as the “Obama lady” and that was all that mattered.

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  18. Davebo says:

    @stonetools:

    I could see her support for the pipeline as Oil and Gas is LA’s single largest industry but in the case of her actual constituents it was purely a symbolic issue.

    The XL pipeline will provide zero benefit to Louisiana and it’s citizens.

    I’m pretty ambivalent on the issue. The utilization of refining capacity on the Texas Gulf Coast is currently near 100% already and we are already seeing pretty massive exports of crude from the Gulf Coast for refining elsewhere mainly the Canadian east coast.

    Again, XL has long since become more of a political issue and not an energy issue. Think about congress appropriating 100’s of millions for aircraft or ships the DOD doesn’t want.

    Same thing.

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  19. An Interested Party says:

    @stonetools:

    Wow…

    …because he acknowledges Landrieu has helped the people of her state tremendously since she became a senator in 1997.

    Of course skin color trumps such things…talk about voting against one’s own self-interests…

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  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @superdestroyer:

    No, it isn’t. The increasing bulk of the Virginia electorate is centered around DC and might as well be an extension of Maryland.

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  21. TheoNott says:

    Look at it this way, guys: the GOP have finished picking all the low-hanging fruit. They cannot continue, on net, to gain Senate seats since there is not a whole lot of Democratic Senators left outside of states that are at least competitive for Democratic presidential candidates. Heitkamp, Donnely, Tester, Manchin, McCaskill… Am I missing any? (Even these are states that are only marginally red at the Presidential level, excepting ND and WV) These are outnumbered by Republican Senators in Obama states. We are moving toward a more ideological party system, where everyone votes a straight ticket and the same party dominates a given state from top to bottom. This trend has been consistent for at least a decade. This bodes poorly for the GOP in 2016, where they will soon have to defend seven seats in states Obama won twice, in a Presidential year. I would add blue-trending Arizona to the list of possible pickups if McCain leaves office. We will soon have a Democratic majority again, it looks like, and a progressive majority at that, with hardly any of these pesky moderates like Landrieu to complicate things.

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  22. bandit says:

    @Stonetools: You’re out of your fucking mind

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  23. bandit says:

    @Stonetools: You’re out of your f’ing mind

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  24. Davebo says:

    @bandit:

    Care to elaborate? Or was that just a brain fart on your part?

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