Had the Republicans been slightly less successful in the midterms, legions of expense-account reporters would now be in New Orleans, chronicling Mary Landrieu’s effort to save her seat.
With Democratic control of the Senate at stake, there would be an avalanche of stories about how the underdog from one of Louisiana’s most storied political families was fighting for her life in next month’s runoff.
Instead, she’s got this: “Mary Landrieu: Dead Woman Walking?”
That’s not a right-wing attack. It’s a headline on the liberal site Talking Points Memo.
The media narrative is that the senator is toast, and that may well be true. Landrieu edged Republican congressman Bill Cassidy in the primary, 42 to 41 percent, but another 14 percent went to another GOP candidate, Rob Maness. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to gauge that Cassidy should pick up most of Maness’ votes in the Dec. 6 runoff.
What’s more, the Democratic Party has yanked its financial support from Landrieu. Politics is a cold business.
But media coverage matters. Some of Landrieu's supporters may stay home if she’s deemed to be a goner. Indeed, NBC reporter Kasie Hunt came out and asked her, "Are you a lost cause?"
In an effort to salvage her candidacy, Landrieu, from an oil-rich state, has successfully pushed for a lame-duck Senate vote on the Keystone pipeline. But House Republicans have countered by having Cassidy sponsor the bill that would be sent to the White House--a vote could come today--and Landrieu says she doesn’t care if her name is off the legislation as long as the pipeline is approved.
What this is really about is separating herself from the president, since a major theme of Cassidy’s campaign—indeed, of many GOP campaigns--is that Landrieu voted in lockstep with Obama.
Here’s the aforementioned TPM story:
“She's not going down without a fight, but Louisiana Democrats remain skeptical she can pull it off. ‘The Democrats on the national level are basically throwing in the towel on Mary. That's how people are reading it here,’ said Ron Nabonne, a New Orleans-based attorney and political consultant for over 30 years.
“Landrieu finds herself in a political netherworld: she hasn't lost, but many Democrats are going through the motions until the Dec. 6 runoff with Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.”
Bloomberg Politics also uses a death metaphor in the headline, “Democrats Leave a Body On the Campaign Trail”:
“Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu's re-election race is truly running out of air: She's responsible for a mere 4 percent of all TV spots in the week-old Louisiana runoff. Republican challenger Bill Cassidy and his friends paid for 96 percent of the spots that have run so far.”
Salon says the Keystone maneuver “is unlikely to help Landrieu. The pipeline doesn’t even come through Louisiana – it stops at Texas. The jobs it creates are mostly temporary; an otherwise favorable State Department report found the pipeline would ultimately create 35 permanent fulltime jobs…
“What Keystone does is let Landrieu poke a sharp stick in the eye of Obama, much hated by her white constituents.”
Sigh. Why drag race into it? I know Landrieu caused a stir by saying of Obama’s unpopularity that “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.” But this was ostensibly about Keystone.
The problem for Landrieu is voters know that even if she wins, she’ll no longer be chairing the Energy Committee. She’ll be in the minority.
Speaking of losing female Democrats, the Texas Tribune has a remarkable story about Wendy Davis.
Davis, you’ll recall, got an enormous amount of positive press after filibustering an anti-abortion bill, which boosted her to the Democratic nomination for governor.
Now that Davis has been trounced by Greg Abbott, a memo has surfaced from two of her former consultants, Peter Cari and Maura Dougherty, that basically said Davis was running too far to the left.
“‘The campaign is in disarray and is in danger of being embarrassed,’ Cari and Dougherty wrote in a lengthy memorandum on Jan. 6. ‘The level of dysfunction was understandable in July and August, when we had no infrastructure in place — but it doesn’t seem to be getting better…
“‘There is not a model where a candidate who appears this liberal and culturally out of touch gets elected statewide anywhere in the south — much less in Texas — without some inoculation…
“‘Running Wendy Davis as a generic national Democrat is not only the quickest path to 38 percent, it’s also a huge disservice to Wendy, her record and the brand she has built.’”
Well, they were off. Davis got 38.9 percent of the vote.
I don’t know where the leak came from, but since the two were fired, there’s an I-told-you-so quality about the story. Could some Mary Landrieu staffers be working on a similar missive?
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.