The 2014 midterms come to a close tomorrow, and to steal from what Noah stole earlier today from T. S. Eliot, not with a bang but a whimper. A US Senate seat hangs in the balance, with a Democratic incumbent desperately needing some reason for hope, and the national media that normally might have circled the wagons has either ignored the race altogether, or are circling the all-but-certain corpse of Mary Landrieu’s career. The media that have finally made the trek to Louisiana for the runoff election tomorrow come as pallbearers to the funeral.
The New York Times even breaks out a folksy, Dan Ratherish simile to describe Landrieu’s plight, along with the most miserable picture of the Senator they could find:
She has been rebuffed by her liberal colleagues in Washington and pilloried at home for voting with the president, and has watched helplessly while her Democratic base has eroded like a cheap levee.
These are hard times for Mary L. Landrieu, the last Deep South Democrat in the United States Senate.
The headline above that picture reads, “In Louisiana Runoff Election, Senator Landrieu Tries to Revive Her Base.” From the look on her face in the William Widmer picture chosen by the NYT to front this story, the resuscitation has clearly not succeeded. It’s eroding like a cheap levee, along with Landrieu’s hopes for another six years in the Senate. And the Gray Lady doesn’t appear shy about reinforcing the point with that image.
The Atlantic’s Molly Ball doesn’t mince words, either:
Mary Landrieu is dead, and everyone knows it but Mary Landrieu. …
“She’s going to lose—it’s just a matter of how much,” Bernie Pinsonat, a pollster who works for both Republicans and Democrats, tells me. (Pinsonat began as a Democratic pollster, but that is no longer much of a viable occupation in this state.) Elliott Stonecipher, a Shreveport-based political analyst, adds: “She’ll have trouble doing better than the 42 percent she got in the primary, and it could be worse than that.” Many observers question Landrieu’s campaign strategy, from her muddled message to the way she has allocated her funds. But, says Bob Mann, a former Democratic staffer who now writes a newspaper column and teaches at Louisiana State University, “She could be the best swimmer in the world, and it wouldn’t matter. The tide is just too strong.”
Ball paints Landrieu as so far out of touch that she doesn’t even know why she’s toast:
A couple of hours later and an hour down the road in Baton Rouge, a reporter asks Landrieu how she feels about her party abandoning her, and her defiant facade cracks a bit. “I am extremely disappointed in the Democratic Senatorial Committee,” she says. “This is a fight worth fighting. I mean, I have a very good record! Records should matter!” It doesn’t seem to occur to Landrieu that it is precisely her record—of supporting an unpopular president and voting for all his major initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act—that voters object to.
Landrieu’s soft voice takes on a pleading cast as she contemplates the electorate that, having sent her to the Senate three times, now seems poised to cast her out. Why can’t they appreciate all she’s done for them? “People say they want somebody to break the gridlock,” she says. “I’ve been breaking it up and busting it up for 18 years! I mean, what is not clear about this? They want politicians that are honest, I’ve been honest! I’ve served with integrity!”
Dave Weigel traveled to Louisiana for Bloomberg, and found Landrieu trying to convince voters of her independence, without much luck:
At every stop, Landrieu tells voters that “the national election is over.” They are being suckered if they cast an anti-Obama vote. (Most of the voters I talk to pause for a few seconds before appraising the president.) At New Roads, and at other stops, Landrieu derides Cassidy as a do-nothing with a “skimpy” record. “We’re gonna let people know about this guy and what a fraud he is,” she tells one voter.
When we talk, and Landrieu gets to discuss the November showdown over the Keystone pipeline, she closes her eyes. This was her bill; the one she rescued from the Republicans who spent half the Obama presidency using Keystone as a bargaining chip. …
The implication is that voters, if so informed, would remember that their senator was there for them. That’s far from clear. The exodus of white conservatives from the Democratic Party, which spans generations, achieved hyperspeed during the Obama years. Since Obama was inaugurated in 2009, sixteen Louisiana state legislators have switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP. Most of them switched after the May 2010 offshore drilling moratorium began after the Deepwater Horizon disaster gushed oil into the Gulf of Mexico, spilling onto the Louisiana coastline.
“I just didn’t feel that my philosophy as a traditional conservative Blue Dog Democrat has a place anymore in the national party,” Representative Bubba Chaney told reporters after his 2011 switch. “The Republican Party better fits that philosophy and my personal values.”
Besides, her supposed independence is just a mirage, Cassidy and his team have successfully argued. For that matter, her own team has argued that point, too. When Obama needs Landrieu’s vote, he gets it:
“This past week, President Obama endorsed Mary Landrieu,” says Laura Cassidy. “Her chief of staff said that if she gets back to the Senate, she’ll vote with Barack Obama—how often?”
Ninety-seven percent of the time!
“One more time, a little bit louder!”
Ninety-seven percent of the time!
At least the media bothered to come to Louisiana. The Democratic Party and its orgs haven’t lifted a finger for Landrieu, and it has her colleagues angry … but not quite angry enough to do anything about it now:
Democrats are irked that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) didn’t get any financial help from their Senate campaign arm in her runoff election.
The Louisiana senator faces almost certain defeat against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Saturday and has been massively outspent on the airwaves.
“There’s a level of frustration that Sen. Landrieu is not getting the support she deserves,” one Democratic Senate aide told The Hill. “There should be more party support for her.”
When asked directly if the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee should have done more, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who campaigned with Landrieu in Louisiana, said it’s wrong to leave a colleague behind no matter the circumstances.
“I wish she had more air cover,” he said. “I was there because she’s my friend, but more importantly she’s done an extraordinary job for the people of Louisiana, and you don’t abandon your friends when times get tough.”
Tough, yes. Impossible? It would take millions of dollars just to have put Landrieu on parity with Cassidy’s effort and that of the GOP, which planned all along to fight a runoff in Louisiana. Landrieu chose to roll the dice for an Election Day victory, a very bad bet which Democrats have been criticizing for weeks. Democrats don’t have millions now, having blown their collections in a futile attempt to hold back the Republican wave everywhere else, and rather wisely figure that going into even more debt now in an even more futile rescue attempt for Landrieu would hurt their chances in 2016.
Had Landrieu actually exercised independence in any meaningful way over the last six years, she might have survived just on the basis of her name recognition. She’s toast, and as Ball writes, she’ll be the last to realize it tomorrow.
Update: Dave puts another nail in the coffin:
In today’s story about Louisiana’s final elections of 2014, I quote Senator Mary Landrieu on what she did for the town of Ferriday. “For a decade, they had brown water comin’ out of their taps,” said Landrieu at a rally. “I don’t think Governor Jindal showed up once. Did he ever show up? Not one time, not one time, did our governor go to this town that has 5000 people, that had brown water comin’ out of the tap.”
This came as a surprise to the office of Jindal. Sure, he’s beginning his final gubernatorial year at a low ebb of popularity. But he can find Ferriday on a map. In 2011, Jindal scrambled the Louisiana National Guard to deliver water to Ferriday during a shortage. It was not his only trip to Ferriday.
Landrieu must not have heard about those trips while living in her DC mansion, I guess.