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.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)