No clout, no vote

Though it would appear the handwriting is on the wall, Sen. Mary Landrieu has ignored calls for her to bail out of the Senate race and has refocused her campaign toward an all-out, scorched-earth attack of her opponent, Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge.

You probably have already seen Landrieu’s new television commercial, the one showing Cassidy struggling a bit to find his way in a speech before a group of conservatives. The TV spot is irrelevant, but it serves as a reminder of what politicians are capable of when their political careers are hanging in the balance.

The word desperate comes to mind. Always a fighter, though, Landrieu faces the toughest challenge of her political life, or what’s left of it. Having drawn some 42 percent of the vote in last week’s primary, Landrieu, a life-long Democrat, cannot ignore the fact that Cassidy and another Republican, Rob Maness, garnered some 55 percent of the vote in the Nov. 4 primary.

Presumably, Maness’ vote will trend to Cassidy in the December run-off. While the Landrieu camp claims its core base of support — the African-American vote — didn’t turn out in the primary in sufficient numbers, Team Landrieu apparently believes it can turn the tide in December, or reach the magical figure of 50 percent plus one vote.
Stranger things have occurred in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans where at one time it was rather common for a voter to cast multiple votes on Election Day.

This isn’t 1996, though, or the year Landrieu was first elected to the Senate on the strength of the African-American vote in the Big Easy, and my fellow Louisianians don’t appear to be impressed with Landrieu’s persistent claim that her clout in Washington matters. Which it doesn’t in light of the Republicans taking control of the Senate in last week’s elections.

That means come Jan. 3 when the new Congress takes office Landrieu — even if she’s re-elected — won’t chair the Senate Energy Committee because her party will become the minority party in the most influential legislative body in the world.

And that, my friends, means even the most junior member of the Senate from the Republican Party will yield more influence than any Democrat, including Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the outgoing Senate Majority Leader. So much for the clout argument.

While it might be tempting for Cassidy and his campaign apparatus to start crowing, they would be wise not to take Landrieu lightly. She’s been counted out before and lived to serve another day.

Besides, she earned her reputation the old fashioned way. In other words, friends were rewarded and enemies were punished. Lots of them. That means Cassidy and anyone remotely associated with his cause — whether it’s the state Republican Party, the national Republican Party or one of those super PACs — should leave no stone unturned, spare no expense and by all means, take no prisoners.

After all, in politics you only kick a man when he’s down. In this case, the man is a woman.

Sam Hanna Jr. is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel and The Franklin Sun, three newspapers owned and operated by the Hanna family. He can be reachd by call 318-805-8158 or emailing him at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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