Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Keystone vs Keystone Light

Congratulations, Senator Cassidy.
Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) reelection bid has been in trouble for a long time. It was in trouble before the Nov. 4 election, when polls showed her likely to lose a head-to-head match-up against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R). It was in trouble after that election, when she performed worse than polling predicted and when her weird, long-shot strategy of getting approval for the Keystone XL pipeline failed completely. And it is in trouble now for many reasons, not the least of which is the most important: The people who have already voted in the race are more heavily the sorts of people likely to vote against her.

The National Journal offered an overview of the early voting problem this morning, pointing out that the vote from Republicans was higher than in November, and the vote from Democrats lower. And back then, GOP candidates combined for 56 percent of the  vote, and Democrats 43.

No shock there, since we all knew that Mary Landrieu's campaign gave up weeks ago.
As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week in a flurry of lame duck activity, one last Democrat has yet to lose her reelection campaign: Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. She's not going down without a fight, but Louisiana Democrats remain skeptical she can pull it off.

"The Democrats on the national level are basically throwing in the towel on Mary. That's how people are reading it here," said Ron Nabonne, a New Orleans-based attorney and political consultant for over 30 years.

Landrieu finds herself in a political netherworld: she hasn't lost, but many Democrats are going through the motions until the Dec. 6 runoff with Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. The Democrats' campaign arm has pulled funding, while the national GOP is still hard-charging. A Bloomberg analysis found that Cassidy and his allies paid for a whopping 96 percent of all the TV ads in the first week of the runoff election. Landrieu ads accounted for a mere 4 percent.
All the bandwagoners ditched.  The people who watch these things closely understood it was pretty much over.
A former Louisiana Democratic operative said Landrieu's goose was cooked.

"She just can't win. It's just not mathematically possible," said the Democrat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The way you win statewide in Louisiana is you get 95 percent of the black vote, a good African-American turnout, and 30 to 33 percent of the white vote. And she's at 20! ... Where does she gain? If you put her at 23 percent now, how does she gain 10 points with white voters in a month?" 

As a long time Saints fan, this is exactly the sort of situation I find appealing. When your team is pretty much eliminated from serious contention in November you might as well spend the remainder of the season having fun with it.  Leaving aside the fact that Bill Cassidy is the political equivalent of an NFC South opponent, now is the time for Mary to admit that the math isn't going to work out in her favor.  Now is the time to let push back against the various stripes of plumb ignorant (and, yes, racist in many cases) folks who are asking us to vote for Cassidy because he said "Obama2ndAmendmentObamaBarackObama97%ObamaCare" a bunch of times on TV. 

If you're gonna go down anyway, you might as well go down swinging.  If you're just tuning in during the last week, you might be fooled into thinking that's exactly what she's doing.  Over the course of the past week, Mary's campaign has:

1) Rolled out an attack on Cassidy based on his likely fraudulent LSU timesheets filed while he was serving in Congress.

2) Turned in a lively final debate performance.  She hit particularly hard on questions about Social Security and about drug testing for welfare recipients.  Cassidy said "entitlements" were going to "devour" the budget.  Mary's answer was, basically, "No, tax cuts for rich people do that."  Later Cassidy referred to mandatory drug testing as an "opportunity for accountability."  Mary really lit into him and the entire premise of the question over that. Those two responses were probably her best moments of the entire campaign.  (I know that's not saying much.)

3) Finally taken the President out of mothballs and allowed him to issue an endorsement.

Too little too late?  Actually it's worse than that.  A sudden flurry of aggressive attacks and appeals to "the base" in a campaign's final week are actually just part of the conventional wisdom playbook.  What you're seeing now is just a pep rally meant to make sure the turnout doesn't crater among the people who were going to vote for Mary anyway.

The real runoff campaign happened a few weeks back.  Here is what that consisted of. Imagine a giant flashing billboard which reads:

I know this because the day after the primary I interviewed for a job consulting for the Landrieu campaign. It went like this.

Me: Hello, Mary.  It looks to me like this thing is pretty much in the shitter right now.  But, as Bill Cassidy might say, let's consider it an "opportunity for accountability."  My idea is to just say what we think and throw whatever we've got at the guy regardless of what the special-focus triangulation poll data might suggest people will think. Here is an animated conceptualization of my vision for this campaign going forward.

What do you think?

Mary: Well... that's nice.  But what I really want to talk about is this oil thing I've got here.
Landrieu called for a unanimous consent vote to move to debate on a bill that would approve construction of the 1,660-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas. The measure, which Landrieu co-authored with Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, passed in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June.

"I could not think of a better bill that symbolizes what we're trying to do in terms of jobs, economic security, energy security and looking to the future in our country than this bill," said Landrieu.

Me: Ok but, beside the fact that none of those things are true about this pipeline... why not let's tell the voters how a vote for you might be different and better for them than from a vote for the other guy.

Mary: I really like oil.

Me: Um.. well... okay but see so does the other guy
Landrieu and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) are spearheading the effort to get the Keystone bill through the Senate. The House passed the same Keystone bill last week, with Landrieu's opponent in the runoff — Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) — its chief sponsor.
And on top of that voters understand that Republicans are basically the Oil Party. Whether you mean to or not, you are giving them Keystone Light when they can just have Keystone.  Let's try to find a  better way to distinguish you from your opponent.

Mary: My opponent, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), wants to replace me as the senior Democrat on the Energy committee. She is "all for windmills and alternative energy, and doesn't support the oil and gas industry" which is a shame because does she know that oil is a beautiful thing that comes from the Earth?

Me: Well.. hold up.. you're running against Bill Cassidy. Remember?

Mary: No, that can't be right. He's running against Barack Obama. It's in all his commercials.  I hope he wins. That Obama guy sounds really bad. 

Anyway, I didn't get the job.  And now I'm pretty sure Mary is about to lose hers.  Not that she'll be out of work for long.  There's another Senate seat opening up in 2016 after David Vitter becomes Governor... if you believe in long shots.  In the meantime, I'm sure someone can find her something to do. These guys probably already have a resume on file.

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