AFP has emerged as the dominant GOP group taking on Democratic senators early in the 2014 campaign, raising alarm bells in other vulnerable states like North Carolina and Arkansas. In Louisiana, Republicans like their chances with less than eight months until the all-party primary election. A recent Democratic poll showed Landrieu in a neck-and-neck race against Cassidy (R) and confirmed that President Obama is unpopular in Louisiana. Other surveys have also shown a close race.

Democrats hope Landrieu’s ascension to chair of the Senate Energy Committee will pay dividends in the next phase of the race, given how important energy issues are in Louisiana and what that kind of power will mean to many voters. She favors constructing the Keystone XL pipeline, protecting oil drilling incentives and curbing the scope of federal regulations on emissions.

The question is whether Landrieu will able to turn the race into a hyper-local campaign — in the mold of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) circa 2012 — that pivots on Louisiana issues or whether the unpopularity of the Obama administration and the health-care law will weigh her down. Landrieu’s very first TV ad touted her legislative effort to allow Americans losing their health-care coverage under Obamacare to stay on their plans, a clear sign she recognized how potent the issue promises to be in the campaign.