In the last half-century, Landrieu has been the victor in the only close Louisiana Senate elections. She nipped Woody Jenkins by a scant 5,788 votes in 1996 and edged Suzanne Haik Terrell by 42,012 votes in 2002. The narrow triumph over Terrell may explain why the senator has been voting remarkably similar to her new Louisiana cohort in the chamber, staunch conservative David Vitter.
Both Landrieu and Vitter supported the confirmation of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State and for sending class action lawsuits to federal courts. Landrieu was also one of only six Democrats to back Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's nominee for attorney general. Gonzales came under heavy scrutiny for his role in the recent Abu Ghraib torture controversy.
Landrieu and Barbara Boxer of California share gender, job description and party affiliation, but are showing little else in common. "The reason is simple," says longtime political consultant Bob Miller. "Landrieu represents a Red State and Boxer is a Senator in the bluest of Blue States."
Landrieu does not face the electorate until November 2008, but is keenly aware that her predecessors never lost focus on the next election. Louisiana Chemical Association President Dan Borne', who once worked for Sen. Russell Long, says Long told him the first two years of his term he was a statesman, the middle two years he was a politician and the last two years he was a prostitute.
Louisiana's political calculus was changed with the victory of Republican Vitter, who secured the seat held by Long and John Breaux for the past 56 years. Landrieu is also looking over her shoulder at freshman congressman Bobby Jindal. The 2002 gubernatorial candidate gained the First District U.S. House seat in a landslide and has not ruled out a bid to join Vitter in the Senate.
A generation ago, Southern Democrats ruled the U.S. Senate with names like Long, Fullbright, Stennis, Russell and Gore. Landrieu is currently joined on an endangered species list by Arkansas' Blanche Lambert Lincoln and Mark Pryor and Floridian Bill Nelson. When she looks east to Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia or west to Texas, there are no Democratic senators in neighboring states. Meanwhile, Sen. Vitter has proved that a well-financed GOP candidate can win convincingly in Louisiana.
For Landrieu, the danger in voting with the Republican majority too frequently is attracting opposition from the left and right. It is doubtful a candidate positioned to her left could win, but the challenger could ensure another December run-off and leave a wounded incumbent with a treacherous march to a third term.
Louisiana has not unseated a sitting U.S. senator in three-quarters of a century, so history favors a familiar name and face. Landrieu is a savvy political warrior, who secured a Louisiana House seat in New Orleans in 1979 when she was 23. She logged two terms in the state Legislature and two terms as Louisiana's treasurer before suffering her only electoral defeat in 1995.
A decade has elapsed since Landrieu ran third in the race for governor, finishing behind Mike Foster and Cleo Fields. She rode Bill Clinton's coattails into the U.S. Senate a year later as she squeezed by Jenkins on the same day that Clinton walloped Bob Dole in Louisiana by more than 215,000 votes.
On my Feb. 10 radio show, a pair of voters called in with differing opinions that Landrieu will likely hear when she returns to the campaign trail in three years. "I am a staunch liberal Democrat," said Martha from Prairieville. "Mary Landrieu should do the honorable thing and change over to the Republican Party. She is not a true Democrat. It is very, very disappointing to those of us who supported her and voted for her in the last election that she seems to be going to the other side. I just feel like she is sort of being a traitor to the Democrats. She is not supporting our views and philosophies. It's difficult for me to believe that anyone could support Gonzales or Condoleeza Rice for that matter. Who would have thought that she would be going to the conservative side and supporting their values?"
Eileen in Baton Rouge had a different view. "I think it would be incredibly simplistic for anyone to take two votes out of Mary's career and say she is voting with the president," she said. "She is an extremely complex and very talented politician, who grew up at the knee of the master, Moon Landrieu. You can bet your bippy that if Miss Landrieu strays from her typical liberal leanings she has very, very good reasons to do it, and it wouldn't be as simplistic as being a traitor. Landrieu has a philosophy and a political ability that far exceeds most people in Congress. She is very competent at being able to save her power. She is a consummate horse trader in the old tradition."
Landrieu is not the first U.S. senator from Louisiana to support Republican presidents. Long, Breaux and Bennett Johnston were not members of the Ted Kennedy wing of the Democratic Party, and they retained their seats by retreating from the liberal label as deftly as early evacuees from an approaching hurricane.
By 2008, Landrieu will have withstood the blustery Louisiana political winds for nearly three decades. Her fate is far from certain, but the votes she casts before Nov. 4, 2008 will play a crucial role in her political survival.
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seenh on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her lead GOP challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy are running close when it comes to money. Landrieu has $5.5 million to Cassidy’s $5.6 million in the bank.
With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition.
Seven of the 11 U.S. cities in a new ranking of “most dangerous diets” are in the Bayou and Lone Star states, but the ranking is more about poverty than fried oysters.
Lafayette police are investigating a fatal shooting involving an alleged burglar and homeowner.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got the message from the NFL. He's not dunking footballs over goal posts any more.
With qualifying over, the start of campaign season is official, and for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the race toward Nov. 4 will pit 20 candidates in battles for all 9 of the district’s available seats.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.