Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy's defeat of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu completes the GOP's takeover of Deep South politics and its national domination of the 2014 midterm elections.
Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy’s defeat of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu completes the GOP’s takeover of Deep South politics and its national domination of the 2014 midterm elections.
But Cassidy, a three-term congressman and physician from Baton Rouge, remains mum on the details of what he believes Republicans should do with their control of Capitol Hill, other than continuing to battle President Barack Obama through the last two years of his second term.
“The American people do not like the agenda that Barack Obama has staked out for our country, nor do they like the effects of these policies,” Cassidy told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace in his only scheduled interview on Sunday.
Cassidy specifically cited the president’s health care overhaul and alluded to the administration’s regulatory approach to oil, gas and coal, repeating the GOP mantra that those policies “kill those jobs.” He also lambasted Obama’s executive action on immigration. But he offered no alternatives to any of those policies.
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The senator-elect’s lack of details reflected his campaign strategy of making the election about Obama and Landrieu’s voting record in support of the White House. That approach was enough to yield a 56 percent to 44 percent victory in a Saturday runoff.
With the win, Republicans will have a 54-seat majority when the Senate convenes in January, to go along with at least 246 seats in the House, compared to 188 for Democrats. A recount remains unsettled in one Arizona House district. The numbers give Republicans their strongest advantage on Capitol Hill since Democratic President Harry Truman’s administration after World War II. The results also will leave Democrats without a single governor, U.S. senator or legislative majority across nine Southern states from the Carolinas to Texas.
Nationally, Cassidy’s win caps an election season where Republicans won every Senate race held in a state that Obama lost in 2012, including four where Democratic incumbents suffered defeat.
Perhaps none of that group faced steeper odds than Landrieu.
She narrowly led Cassidy in a Nov. 4 primary that included candidates from all parties on one ballot. But her 42 percent total fell well short of her performance in previous elections. Exit polls in November showed she got fewer than 1 out of 5 white votes, far short of the third or so that a Democrat needs to win in Louisiana. Almost three out of four white voters told pollsters that they “strongly disapproved” of the president.
Alongside those barriers, Landrieu endured a considerable fundraising and advertising disadvantage in the one-month runoff campaign. National Democrats financially abandoned the race, and of every dollar spent by third-party groups during the runoff, 97 cents benefited Cassidy.
Landrieu, 59, appeared upbeat in defeat, however. She told supporters Saturday night in New Orleans that she was happy to have waged an active campaign, an implicit contrast with Cassidy, who made few public appearances as he sought to avoid missteps. Cassidy, 57, is a veteran physician and faculty member of Louisiana State University’s medical training programs.
Landrieu told Cassidy in a telephone conversation “that representing the people of this state is the greatest honor that anyone could ever have.” She celebrated her role in “delivering for the state in its darkest hour,” references to federal aid she helped secure after multiple hurricanes and the 2010 Gulf oil spill. She hailed Louisiana’s increased share of royalties from offshore oil drilling, a legislative victory that took years to achieve. And, alluding to the Affordable Care Act that prompted so many GOP attacks, she said she was “proud” of a “good fight” on health care.
“And it’s not over yet,” she said.
Besides a blow to Democrats at home and nationally, Landrieu’s loss also hits her famous political family, many of whom stood on stage at her runoff party. Her brother, Mitch, is in his second term as New Orleans mayor and cannot seek a third consecutive term. He is considered a possible candidate for governor, but must assess whether another Landrieu — or any Democrat — can win statewide.
The senator didn’t mention her younger brother specifically in her remarks.
But, she said, “There is a deep and extraordinary bench of young Democratic leaders in this state, ready to lead and ready to carry on.” And of her family, she added, “I cannot tell you how proud we are to have made a difference for decades, and we will continue to do so.”
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