Sen. Mary Landrieu: The Politician No One Wants to Be

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

I’d imagine most politicians have that day where they look back with contempt, Advil, and a hand run through their hair, at the balloon drop on election night. That moment of celebratory bliss that too quickly faded into the nightmare that political maneuvering can be. Not too long ago, when we pointed to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as a politician you wouldn’t want to be that week, hysterics would be the appropriate terminology for his state of mind. Contenders are fairly numerous for the honor. New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie has also shared the privilege, and at this point President Barack Obama probably needs to be taken out of the running to give our other contestants any chance at all. Fair’s only fair.

However, throughout the early weeks of December, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) may have beaten out even our honorable executive. Landrieu is suffering from what can best be referred to as a stuttering defeat — as in, knowing how a sentence is going to end long before it’s over, yet having to wait in frustration while it sputters and struggles toward the ultimate conclusion. Landrieu is not only suffering a drawn out political death — which at this point most are agreed is undeniable — but she’s had salt rubbed in the wounds not once, but twice. Her chances of winning the Louisiana Senate’s runoff election were never very good. Following the rather overwhelming loss Democrats suffered in the midterm, she then had party defeat to contend with, something she’s done her best to deal with in speeches. During a talk in Hammond, Louisiana she told onlookers that the midterms had set the future political balance of the Senate, but that it needn’t decide for their state. “That has been decided now,” she said, according to the New York Times, “But what is still left to be decided is who is best qualified to represent this state for six more years in the United States Senate.”

That’s not to mention the fact that Obama’s pre-midterm restraint expired the moment election results were in. His executive action is hardly endearing conservative voters to the Democratic party. And unfortunately this is a fact that her opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is well aware of, and made good use of in the last Senate debate held earlier this week. He attacked her for her collaboration with the president, among other things.

And unfortunately for Landrieu, any hope she did have died in the Senate vote last month on her own time. Landrieu and Cassidy both separately put bills on the floor to push the currently frozen Keystone XL Pipeline forward. The issue is a major legislative item for Louisiana, which both candidates claim would benefit from subsequent job growth and economic improvements in a significant way. Unfortunately for Landrieu, she was just short of the votes needed to pass her measure, while Cassidy got House approval.

There’s nothing worse than failing when even a success wouldn’t make much difference. “Landrieu is a substantial underdog, and one high profile vote probably isn’t going to shake up the race as dramatically as Landrieu needs,” said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia to the Times Picayune, even before the Senate decision came in, claiming Obama would be too big a problem to overcome. Landrieu has had her ups and downs in office like any politician, and it’s arguable that her coming loss isn’t a reflection of failure, per se, but more a result of the atmosphere in America at this point.

If this seems unfairly pessimistic, one can look at the polls, or at Republican spending, which has easily outpaced Landrieu’s in the runoff. Roll Call reports that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee canceled ad reservations held for her only two days after the midterms had ended. FiveThirtyEight offers the best perspective though. It reports that Landrieu may be about to break an unfortunate record as December closes out.

She may be about to hip-check a former official out of their spot in the top 10 margins of defeat ever seen for elected incumbents. FiveThirtyEight estimated she would lose by a 15.6 percentage point margin, 57.8% to 42.2.% in the runoff, and depending on voter demographics, the split could have as high as 60% to 40%. “A defeat that large would be the largest for an incumbent this year, topping Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor’s 17-point loss,” reported FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten before the runoff. A number of incumbent senators took hits this midterm — not that we’d want to be them either — but Landrieu is the last Democrat to bite the dust this election and it’s increasingly looking to be a dramatic loss.

Landrieu’s time in the Senate concluded on January 4, when the 114th Congress was sworn in. She lost her run-off election by 12 percentage points, leaving not one single Democratic senator in the Deep South. Her loss also marks the first time in 132 years that Landrieu’s seat will be held by a Republican.

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS

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