Local political experts handicap Louisiana's Senate race

Key issues at play


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 25, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. BILL CASSIDY, R-LA.: Senator Landrieu supports him 97 percent of the time. Why would you support so faithfully someone who is so hostile to our economy?

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, D-LA.: I've worked with three presidents. I worked with President Clinton, President Bush, and President Obama. When they are right for Louisiana, I vote with them. When they are wrong I vote the other way.

Harry Reid represents Nevada. Harry Reid doesn't represent Louisiana.

CASSIDY: He controls the calendar.

LANDRIEU: He controls it with some push back.


BAIER: We're back in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Obviously the big issue here is that big Senate race, and our second panel features some local political experts. Introducing to you Mark Ballard, he's the chief of The Advocate Newspaper's Capital Bureau and is based in Baton Rouge, Heather Ieyoub is FOX 29 Lake Charles news director and anchor, and Jeremy Alford, publisher and editor of LApolitics.com. Thanks all for being here. I wanted to get your sense of this race, where it stands, and what are the key things that we have yet to see with 40 days yet to go?

JEREMY ALFORD, LAPOLITICS.COM: We have yet to see Congressman Bill Cassidy agree to all of the debates. He has agreed to only two of planned five in October. And it's interesting because we are seeing him run a traditional incumbent campaign. And you got to wonder, you know, you would go to the debate and he'd be hammered on the right by Tea Party candidate, he'd be hammered on the left by Senator Landrieu. Why even show up?

But also, he is not as accomplished as Senator Landrieu. This is really his first time in the spotlight. You know, the margin for victory here is very thin. If you look at all the run off scenarios, polls since February last year, this race has flipped 13 times, including ties. So it's a very close race. There's little room for error. So I think everybody is sitting back and waiting to see if someone does make a mistake.

BAIER: Yes, polls are tight.

HEATHER IEYOUB, FOX 29 LAKE CHARLES: Yes. And I think really here especially in this region in southwest Louisiana, we are on the boom of a huge economic growth. And I think that's what's going to be on voter's minds when they go to the polls is who is going to be fighting for them and really getting us ready for this economic boom, not just in southwest Louisiana but all of Louisiana?

And I agree with what you said Cassidy not being polished. I heard them both speak. Landrieu has that Louisiana girl thing going for her. And I would just love to see a little bit more sparkle from Cassidy and just see that other side of him, because when you meet him he is very personable, and I think that would resonate with people.

BAIER: But does that, the issue come really down to control of the U.S. Senate and tying to President Barack Obama? Is that Cassidy's real fallback?

MARK BALLARD, THE ADVOCATE NEWSPAPER: I think Cassidy has streaked the "R" behind his name. And President Obama is not popular here, has not been popular throughout his entire presidency here. And they are trying their best to kind of tie Senator Landrieu with Barack Obama. Even today, the -- with the resignation of the attorney general, if you read Bill Cassidy's Twitter it sounded like Mary Landrieu appointed him. So I think that her aim is to try to win in November without a runoff.

BAIER: Which would mean over 50 percent. How much does Rob Maness factor into this race? And explain obviously the jungle primary. We have tried to explain it, but basically they have to get to 50 percent, otherwise they go to December 6th. How much does Maness factor in?

BALLARD: I think Maness, maybe I disagree with you on this, I think Maness is the key factor which will drag it out to December. He is bringing in folks that are Tea Party, the far right, that may not have come out to vote for Bill Cassidy. They may have just stayed home. But with him involved in the race, that will bring it up for both of them and bring it into a runoff.

BAIER: Do you agree with that?

IEYOUB: Yes, I do. Palin is coming in showing a lot of support for him. The Tea Party does play a big role, especially here in Louisiana. And that could change things and send us into a runoff.

BAIER: But a chance that he comes in second instead of Cassidy?

ALFORD: I think that would be tough. You look at Texas, there is a Senate upset with the Tea Party candidate in Mississippi. There is a close race. We're in between, you are wondering if Rob Maness can make that same kind of spark. I think it's highly unlikely. But he is shaving votes off of Cassidy and is causing the campaign to look over their shoulder instead of focusing on Landrieu 100 percent.

BAIER: Last thing, down the row very quickly, do you think that it's possible that all these polls are not factoring in Democratic turn out the vote here in Louisiana?

ALFORD: Yes. I think that the money in this election is just unprecedented. Mary Landrieu is expecting $40 million. That would be the most expensive Senate race in the United States. It's already the most expensive in Louisiana history. The technology that's on the ground is unprecedented as well. So that's really an unknown.

BAIER: So maybe that's not in all the polls?

IEYOUB: I totally agree. It's like trying to call who is going to win the Super Bowl right now. You just don't know what's going to come out between now and then.

BALLARD: They have a very sophisticated ground game, the Democrats do. They brought in the president's ground game, if you will, and have identified some time voters using their database, those sometime voters that could be amenable for voting for Senator Landrieu.

BAIER: Thank you all so very much. We love the perspective on the ground. And good luck with your new he addition coming up.

IEYOUB: Thank you, looking forward to it.

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