LA-Sen: Landrieu Leads, Though Within the Margin of Error

Late last month Louisiana's state treasurer John Kennedy, the turncoat Democrat Karl Rove tapped to be the Republican nominee in the 2008 Senate race in the state, released polling commissioned from Zogby International that shockingly yielded the exact results that the client wanted (who would ever believe that Zogby would do such a thing...), in this case Kennedy leading Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu by a 45 percent to 38 percent margin. Now non-partisan pollster SurveyUSA has released its own numbers on the Louisiana Senate race, which were not commissioned by a candidate by rather by congressional newspaper Roll Call, and amazingly the results look more than a bit different.

If there were an election for United States Senate today, and the only two candidates on the ballot were (names rotated) Republican John Kennedy and Democrat Mary Landrieu, who would you vote for?

Landrieu 46
Kennedy 42

Now I have at least a slight bit of qualm about the ordering of the questions, with favorable numbers on the candidates with their titles asked before the head-to-head, meaning that respondents were not asked the exact same uninformed question they will see on the ballot but rather a quasi-informed question that followed a prompt reminding them what office each candidate currently served in.

That said, these numbers don't look near as bad as some might have you believe. Landrieu's favorable spread is 40 percent positive/32 percent negative -- lower than most other non-partisan public polling, but nevertheless not too bad. Kennedy's numbers are fairly good at 35 percent positive 10 percent negative, but perhaps not as good as one might expect for someone who just finished running a well publicized reelection campaign less than two months ago.

Realistically, Landrieu faces the toughest challenge of any Democratic Senator up for reelection in 2008. However, as Bob Novak noted yesterday (and even a broken clock is right a couple of times a day), "being the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in 2008 is not so bad." In other words, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee already holding an $11.5 million advantage in cash-on-hand over the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the NRSC already having to devote the vast majority of its resources to playing defense, it's likely that Landrieu is going to be getting more help from her party establishment than Kennedy will be receiving from his. This is not limited to direct support from the DSCC either; one could see major donors from around the country hoping to help out the only vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent. Indeed, Landrieu has already raised more than $7 million this cycle and had more than $3.3 million in the bank as of the end of September.

So at this point I'd definitely be more willing to put money on Landrieu than Kennedy were I a betting man (though I'm not rushing to Vegas to make such a bet, either).

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GOP's Shot at Knocking Off Landrieu Getting More Complicated?

As things seem to be shaping up, Louisiana could be the only state in which the Democrats will truly have to play defense in a Senate election this cycle. Though two-term Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu won a close race in 1996 and, even more importantly, in 2002, when the tide was distinctly pro-Republican, population changes following Hurricane Katrina have potentially made more difficult her shot at reelection next fall.

Republicans were able to recruit a credible candidate to run against Landrieu this cycle in former Democrat John Kennedy, who won reelection as state Treasurer this past fall. Yet if the GOP thought it would have an easy shot at knocking off Landrieu with Kennedy they may have to think again -- another big name Republican in the state is still looking at making a run.

State Treasurer John Kennedy (R) has looked the part of likely GOP nominee against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), but another statewide GOP official is reportedly still considering the race.

Secretary of State Jay Dardenne (R), whose name came up during early speculation about Landrieu opponents, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he is still weighing a run, although he must first recover from a serious auto accident in August.

Kennedy, a former Democrat, switched parties before running for reelection in November, and last week he officially joined the Senate race, as many had expected. Karl Rove, a former adviser to President Bush, was part of the effort to recruit Kennedy.

Dardenne served 15 years as a state senator until winning a September 2006 special election to become secretary of state. He was reelected handily in November.

Naturally, the addition of another serious Republican candidate to the mix in this race, or others more generally, does not necessarily make it more difficult for the GOP to win. After all, some of the Democrats' greatest successes in 2006 came after competitive primaries, including John Tester in Montana and Jim Webb in Virginia. That said, a bitterly fought GOP primary in which the two candidates spend more time beating one another up than they do trying to knock down Landrieu's high favorables -- her approval rating is in the 60s -- could make it more difficult for the Republicans to pick up this seat. And at the least, such a primary would certainly make the Republicans' task here more complicated.

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LA-Sen: Kennedy To Challenge Landrieu; Already Polling Ahead?

After being re-elected to Louisiana state Treasurer as a Democrat in 2003 and running unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2004 (David Vitter won that race,) John Kennedy switched his affiliation to Republican in August before winning re-election as Treasurer in November. The speculation at the time was that he was readying a run for senate against Mary Landrieu in 2008. Today, Kennedy confirmed those suspicions. From the statement on his extremely lame website (h/t TPM):

In a little less than a year, Louisianians will go to the polls to elect our next United States Senator. In doing so, our people will decide who they want to represent our state and our values in Washington, D.C.

I want you to be the first to know that today I will take the first steps and file the necessary paperwork to run for the United States Senate in 2008. I plan to officially kick off the campaign early next year. Please know that Becky and I made this decision carefully, after much thought, prayer and discussion.

Over the next few months, I will lay the groundwork of support for an aggressive campaign that will focus on a frank discussion of the issues and how I will help move Louisiana forward working in tandem with our new reform leadership in Baton Rouge.

Landrieu is widely considered the most endangered Democrat running for re-election next year (National Journal ranks the seat as the 4th most likely to change hands and CQ's 2008 Electoral Map lists it as "Leans Dem," the weakest of all Dem seats up next year.) Now, Kennedy's confirmed entrance into the race will only reinforce that, especially in light of new Zogby poll numbers (1,001 Adults, 10/10-14, MOE +/-3.2%) out of Louisiana today (which, Kennedy commissioned, it should be noted,) featured on Kennedy's extremely lame website:

Landrieu (D-Inc.): 38
Kennedy (R): 45
Undecided: 15

I am skeptical of these numbers and I'll withhold judgment on the state of the race once we get a poll of likely or even registered voters. As Jonathan recently noted, the environment in the wake of the recent state-wide elections even with the post-Katrina demographic shifts, are quite favorable to Landrieu.

Landrieu has a lot of money in the bank -- more than $3.3 million as of September 30, to be precise. What's more, her numbers don't look half bad. According to The Times-Picayune back in April, polling from January "showed [Landrieu's] approval rating at 61 percent and other figures showing that 67 percent favored having two senators of differing parties." (Louisiana is currently represented by one Democrat and one Republican in the Senate.) A February report from the paper noted, "Landrieu's team was putting out the word that in a new statewide survey, her approval ratings are at an impressive 64 percent."

Now that Kennedy is in, I suspect this race will be among those more frequently polled and I bet we'll see Landrieu in much better position than this 'wishful thinking' poll indicates. That said, I have no illusions that this will be an easy seat to hold onto. It never is.

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LA-Sen: Signs Point to GOP Challenger for Mary Landrieu

For some time it has looked like Louisiana could shape up to be the most difficult -- and perhaps even the only truly competitive -- Senate seat that the Democrats will have to defend this cycle. Although the Republicans failed to entice their top potential candidates into the race, people like Bobby Jindal and Richard Baker (both Republican Congressmen from the state), the incumbent, Mary Landrieu, only narrowly won reelection in 2002, before a large portion of her base was possibly displaced in the aftermath to Hurricane Katrina. Now signs are pointing to the possibility that the Republicans have found a candidate to challenge Landrieu in 2008, albeit a somewhat lower tier candidate. Jan Moller has the story for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.

State Treasurer John Kennedy has switched political parties and will seek re-election to a third term this fall as a Republican, he announced Monday.

[...]

As a Republican, Kennedy will now be seen as a likely 2008 challenger to Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who national GOP officials view as the Senate's most vulnerable Democratic incumbent.

There are instances in which states elect (or reelect) someone to a particular office only to elect them to a new office two years earlier. Certainly Pennsylvania voters didn't punish Bob Casey for running for Senate two years after having been elected state Treasurer, giving him a remarkably large win over Republican incumbent Rick Santorum last cycle. But Landrieu is no Santorum, Kennedy is no Casey, and 2008 for the Democrats is no 2006 for the Republicans. First of all, Kennedy will be running for Senate one year after running for reelection as Treasurer -- and this is the second time he's done so.

But to hit on that last point (on the differences between the environment for the Republicans in 2006 and the Democrats in 2008), races for the United States Senate don't happen in a vacuum. The national mood plays an enormous role in these statewide races, and the close Senate elections around the country tend to break in the same direction. The fact that the American public favors the Democrats on the generic congressional ballot question certainly helps out Landrieu's cause. So, too, does the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee holds more than a $10 million cash-on-hand advantage over its Republican counterpart when debts and obligations are taken into account -- a fact that is made all the more beneficial to Landrieu given that she is just about the only truly endangered Democrat this cycle. Remember, last cycle the DSCC dedicated more than a fifth of its independent expenditures to defense, including more than $5.5 million to New Jersey, so they're not going to shy away from investing in Landrieu this cycle.

On the candidates, Landrieu is not nearly in Santorum territory, and Kennedy is not nearly as popular as Casey. Looking at the polling, Landrieu's approval rating, as of last November, was north of 50 percent -- not tremendously great at 54 percent, but also not bad, either. At the same time, Kennedy is someone who managed only 15 percent of the vote during his 2004 Senate run, which doesn't instill too much confidence in his vote-getting abilities (even if he has been able to win other statewide contests in the past).

So the long and the short of it: Louisiana is likely going to be the number one seat for the Democrats to defend this cycle -- but that doesn't necessarily mean that the Republicans have a great opportunity to pick up this seat, even in a presidential year.

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Ned Lamont the Blue Dogs; Landrieu Must Go(poll)

It is time to defeat some democrats who are not doing their job enough. I would like to see Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to lose. We need a democratic opponent against her. She has voted to fund the war and recently the FISA bill. According to congresspedia.org, here is what she said after Katrina struck:

  In an interview with Chris Wallace, Landrieu called the evacuation of New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina "the best evacuation."

Shortly after the aftermath of the hurricane, Landrieu was involved in a testy exchange with Anderson Cooper of CNN in which she praised President Bush and the Senate for responding to Katrina and appropriating money for the effort. To which Cooper responded: "Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting. I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated." After this exchange, Landrieu began to criticize President Bush very harshly for his response to Katrina in subsequent interviews.

Landrieu is also one of the more conservative members of the Democrats in the Senate. We cannot tolerate conservative democrats in Congress. We tried to get Lieberman out and succeeded in his loss in the democratic primary.

I would also like to see a third party candidate or possible democrat go up against Dick Durbin in my state of Illinois. He will win easily in 2008 and we need someone to hold him accountable. He is another senator who has funded the war in Iraq and does not show enough strength in leadership as majority whip in the senate. He has lots of power and he must utilize it better. The best way to do this is to get him to earn his victory in 2008.

We need to defeat all republicans and all conservative democrats to truly have a progressive agenda in Congress to represent the people of the United States of America. Landrieu must go and Durbin must be challenged. Spread the word around to other blogs.

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