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HomeNewsElectionsLouisiana Senate Race Rating Hinges On Landrieu’s Risky Strategy

Louisiana Senate Race Rating Hinges On Landrieu’s Risky Strategy

The Louisiana Senate race is the third article in what will be a succession of expanded analysis released for the PPD 2014 Senate Map. Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu represents a conservative state, making the Louisiana Senate race along with Mark Pryor (D-AR), one of the most attractive targets in the country for Republicans.

Yet, Landieu says that despite its deep unpopularity, if given the chance she would vote for ObamaCare again. Her campaign strategy clearly operates under the assumption that she is otherwise finished in the U.S. Senate without a massive showing from a small yet formidable Democratic base in a state that Mitt Romney won with 58 percent of the vote in 2012.

Landrieu’s campaign spent $250,000 broadcasting an ad that responds to an ad the billionaire Koch Brothers ran, accusing Landrieu of “backtracking and avoiding accountability” over her support for ObamaCare. Landrieu’s ad buy covered the entire state except the Democratic stronghold of New Orleans, where Landrieu’s brother is mayor, whom she hopes will drive up enough turnout.

“This is a promise you made, this is a promise you should keep,” Sen. Mary Landrieu says in the ad. It is a risky strategy, to be sure.

Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy looks to be the favorite for her opponent for 2014, as Republican Rep. John Fleming has opted out of the race. Ex-Rep. Jeff Landry has not ruled out running, but is believed to be an unlikely candidate. Early polling has shown this race to be very, very close.

Even before the ObamaCare debacle Harper Polling, which is a conservative alternative to the liberal PPP polling firm, surveyed the race in April and found Landrieu leading the unknown 46 – 41 percent. Landrieu has a high floor – because of black voter support – but also a low ceiling that makes it hard to achieve a majority on Election Day.

In Louisiana a plurality isn’t good enough. The winner is required to get 50 percent plus one of the total votes. Louisiana’s election on November 4, 2014, is actually a jungle primary, the only one in the country. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote that day, the top two finishers advance to a runoff election on December 6. This is nothing new for Landrieu, who has been there a few times already.

Landrieu only managed to get a majority in the first round of balloting once out of her 3 election victories, in the 2008 Democratic landslide and with only 52 percent of the vote. Aside from Cassidy, other GOP potentials are state school board President Chas Roemer, son of ex-governor and one-time 2012 presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, and Rob Maness.

Landrieu “faces a tidal wave of unfavorable demographic voting trends,” according to SMOR’s pollster. Pundits tend to focus on the wrong demographic trends in Louisiana, which sound favorable to Democrats. In reality, when first elected in 1996, 40 percent of Louisiana’s voters were white Democrats. Today, white Democrats account for only 22 percent of Louisiana’s electorate, but it is even worse than it sounds when we look at ideological leanings.

Voter registration is trending against Democratic candidates, but 48 percent of Louisiana voters say they agree with Republicans despite which party they say they chose when they registered to vote. Only 36 percent say they agree with Democrats. When we look at the Partisan Voting Index), we see an R+12, well above the D+2 threshold for an 83 percent chance of loss.

ObamaCare is producing an anti-incumbent sentiment in the state, as well. Despite leading with 41 percent in a three-way matchup, which would be crushed if Republicans consolidated their vote, when asked about seniority, a whopping 56 percent wanted someone new and 37 percent wanted to keep her in office.

In 2008, there were 5 names on the ballot in the Louisiana Senate race, and there were 9 in 2002. Typically, it would make sense for Cassidy (or whichever GOP candidate it turns out to be) to prefer a larger field and, therefore, force a runoff against Landrieu, because turnout in the second round might be more favorable to the Republicans. Except, that really doesn’t iron out when we examine the empirical evidence, which actually suggests otherwise.

In 2002, which Landrieu won, and also in a midterm atmosphere, turnout only fell less than 1 percent from the Election Day primary to the runoff election. This certainly could change, but my political instinct is telling me that Landrieu — nor the GOP candidate — will be able to rely upon such a development.

President Obama has an approval rating in the low 40s — 41.7 percent — in Louisiana, which when factored in to the model used at PeoplesPunditDaily.com, all other things considered, predicts Landrieu would receive no more than 47 percent of the vote. If there was a three-way jungle primary, then we would get a runoff election. Recent polling suggests that would not be beneficial for Landrieu, despite past historical Election Day outcomes in Louisiana Senate races.

The voters will either decide to keep or fire Landrieu in the Louisiana Senate race, whether in a run-off or on the first ballot. Either way, it appears she is in a lot of trouble, which is why this race is currently rated a “Toss-Up” on the PPD 2014 Senate Map.

View Polling Below Or Return To PPD 2014 Senate Map

Poll Date Sample Cassidy (R) Landrieu (D) Spread
Rasmussen Reports 1/28 – 1/29 500 LV 44 40 Cassidy +4
PPP (D) 8/16 – 8/19 721 RV 40 50 Landrieu +10
Harper (R) 8/14 – 8/15 596 LV 47 45 Cassidy +2


Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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