The fundraising gap in the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Mary Landrieu and Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is not getting smaller and is actually larger than reported. The most recent quarterly campaign finance reports show the incumbent Democrat from New Orleans with $5.8 million cash on hand to Cassidy’s $3.4 million.

But of Cassidy’s sum, $148,100 was raised for and can only be spent on a December runoff election. Landrieu can spend all her money raised so far in the November 2014 primary.

“It doesn’t look like a lot on paper, but he’s basically maxing out or starting to max out certain donors,” says a campaign operative, which bolsters the candidate’s overall totals in the much-watched money race.

In addition, Cassidy transferred $2.4 million from his House account in June, which propped up his second quarter filing.

Campaigners observers question the need for holding back money for December. “If this goes into a December runoff, this will be the last runoff in the country,” says one. “There will be a lot of eyes on the race, so I’m not sure what’s behind this strategy.”

The Cassidy campaign declined to comment on the inner workings of the congressman’s fundraising, but he is leading his challenger peers nationwide, according to a new breakdown from Roll Call, a newspaper in Washington, D.C.

Among non-incumbent Republican Senate candidates in other states, Cassidy ranks first for his campaign account total. That includes Republicans running for open seats as well, and he even has more money in the bank than a few incumbents.

However, when it comes to Cassidy’s $685,000 raised during the third quarter, he ranks sixth among Republicans who are challenging incumbents next year, falling behind the following:

— Arkansas: Tom Cotton,$ 1.07 million

— Wyoming: Liz Cheney, $1.02 million

— Kentucky: Matt Bevin, $822,000

— North Carolina: Thom Tillis, $812,000

— Minnesota: Mike McFadden, $705,000

Additionally, the $427,000 Cassidy spent in the third quarter was topped only by Bevin’s $657,000.

Landrieu, meanwhile, raised $1.3 million and spent $432,000 during the most recent quarter. The other Republican in the race, Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel from Madisonville, had a burn rate in the third quarter, raising $58,000, spending $68,000 and leaving $16,000 in the bank.

Democrats to target north Louisiana

Sources inside the state Democratic Party tell LaPolitics that a win in next year’s 6th Congressional District is “insurmountable” and that focusing on U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s re-election is only half of the strategy for the 2014 cycle.

The other half can be found in the piney woods of north Louisiana, where Democrats are hoping they can pick off two GOP incumbents in the 4th and 5th congressional districts. It’s a tall order, to be certain, especially after the thrashing Democrats took in this month’s 5th District primary.

Party leaders have been fielding complaints in the primary’s wake that the field wasn’t cleared for a lead candidate in that race, which now has an all-Republican runoff, and that more wasn’t done to support the Dem contenders who did qualify.

For now, party leaders say they are refocusing efforts and implementing a “people first” game plan that will be driven by statistics and will seek to energize the party’s base.

“This is not going to be the old Democratic Party where decisions are made in smoke-filled rooms,” says one party official. “We are going to focus on data and numbers.”

That not only means capturing the seat that will be taken by a Republican next month in northeast Louisiana, but also bringing a fight to incumbent Congressman John Fleming, R-Minden, who Democrats targeted in 2012 before hitting a political brick wall.

While no names have surfaced as of yet, the party is keen on pointing out that Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover is term limited — even if he isn’t necessarily the top choice of Dems in the region.

The endgame may be all about Landrieu, who will need to do well in north Louisiana for her expected win in voter-rich New Orleans proper to truly matter.

Blueprint gearing up for another “bold” effort

Lafayette attorney Clay Allen says the good government group Blueprint Louisiana, for which he serves as secretary-treasurer, is preparing to unleash an aggressive reform campaign targeting the 2015 election cycle. “It will be bold and we will be out in force,” Allen says.

Blueprint’s board of directors is currently in the research phase and intends to focus on fiscal issues and funding for higher education.

“We’re in a quiet period right now, but we’ll be making grassroots presentations next year and educating the public,” Allen adds.

The group’s bipartisan PAC will play a central role, he notes, like it did in 2007 when more than $1.6 million was spent helping elect a majority of the House and Senate. While the board still has to finalize its next approach, Blueprint, last go around, asked candidates to sign a contract backing its priorities and the PAC spent money to promote those vowing support.

“With reform fatigue taking hold, right now the state really needs some help from a nonpartisan group interested in advocating real changes,” Allen says. “We want to help create the political will.”   

Allen also says Blueprint is under new leadership with the election of Dr. Phillip Rozeman of Shreveport as chairman.

They Said It

“It should be a great thing. But it just takes one stumble to make it all look bad.”
—Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, on the controversial program that allows legislators to award scholarship to Tulane University.

“It was probably the catalyst for me getting involved in politics.”
—Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, on his time as president of the LSU student body.

For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Maginnis and Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.

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