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.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.