Tags: Landrieu | Senate | Louisiana | Obamacare

Louisiana Senate Race Shaping Up as Referendum on Obamacare

Image: Louisiana Senate Race Shaping Up as Referendum on Obamacare Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Bill Cassidy

By John Gizzi   |   Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013 07:38 AM

National Republican leaders have cautioned GOP candidates not to make the Affordable Care Act their lone issue in 2014, but the race against Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is shaping up to be almost exclusively about healthcare reform.

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This is due in large part to the 2010 vote cast by Landrieu to enact Obamacare and that Rep. Bill Cassidy, the leading Republican contender, is a physician and considered one of his party's best spokesmen on healthcare.

Landrieu "is very vulnerable because of her casting the deciding vote to pass Obamacare, the Louisiana Purchase, as her vote has become famous as," Republican state Chairman Roger Villere told Newsmax. "And now you have an estimated 88,000 Louisianans who have lost their health-insurance policies."

Villerre's assessment is validated in a new Southern Media and Opinion Research poll. Among likely voters statewide, Landrieu's approval rating plummeted from 56 percent in April to 46 percent last week. The poll found that her positive job ratings dropped 17 points among white male Democrats and 19 points among white female Democrats.

"Although we can't be certain of what caused the shift, the controversial federal government's healthcare website fiasco, which further drew attention to the Affordable Care Act, likely contributed to Landrieu's lower positive job-performance ratings," concluded the analysis of the polling.

"Contributing to Landrieu's declining popularity was the revelation that millions of healthcare insurance policies were canceled in spite of President Obama's personal guarantee that everyone could keep their individual insurance policies," the research organization's analysis said.

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Underscoring this analysis was its polling on Obamacare, which found only 34 percent of likely voters support it and 59 percent oppose it.

The same poll found that in a test race, three-termer Landrieu drew 41 percent of the vote, followed by Cassidy with 34 percent, and retired Army Col. Rob Maness, also a Republican, at 10 percent.

Under the Pelican State's "jungle primary," all candidates compete on the same ballot regardless of party and, if no one wins a majority, the top two vote-getters meet in a runoff.

First-time candidate Maness has the backing of numerous Louisiana tea party groups but  so far has raised only $100,000. A third conservative Republican, freshman state Rep. Paul Hollis of St. Tammany Parish, is also exploring the Senate race.

History and the current political trend in Louisiana would also appear to be working against Landrieu. She has never won a Senate race by a comfortable margin.

In 1996, she won her first term over Republican state Rep. Woody Jenkins in the closest Senate race in the country, the final outcome being disputed right up to the day Landrieu took office. In 2002, she was re-elected with 51 percent of the vote over State Elections Commissioner Suzy Terrell, and in 2008 won again with 52 percent over an underfinanced Republican, John Kennedy.

Now, Landrieu is the only Democrat in any statewide office in Louisiana, where her party is also a minority in the state House and Senate.

Her admirers point out that — as the daughter of a past New Orleans mayor, the sister of the current mayor and herself a former state treasurer — Landrieu is a name as universally known in Louisiana as Kennedy in Massachusetts and Bush in Texas.

In addition, her admirers note, she is a superb campaigner who has broken with her national party on occasion. Earlier this year, for example, Landrieu initially refused to support the Toomey-Manchin gun-registration bill supported by the Obama administration, but ended up voting for it.

But this might all be trumped by Obamacare. As analysis of the new poll concluded, "If Sen. Landrieu faced re-election in the next few months, her outlook for re-election would be highly unlikely. When voters were asked which was more important, keeping her in office due to her seniority or electing someone new, 56 percent wanted someone new and 37 percent wanted to keep her in office."

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John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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