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Monday, 15 September 2014 12:08
Landrieu can't capitalize on Cassidy's debate refusals
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capitol-dc It’s interesting how six years and a comparatively inferior electoral position can change the tune of Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu as she finds out what life’s like being the underdog.


As the electoral environment for Landrieu continues to deteriorate with the clock ticking towards the day of reckoning for her reelection attempt, depressing her chances to succeed in that quest, incumbent Landrieu has gotten increasingly strident in demanding that the race leader, Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, engage her in debates. These “debates” aren’t really that, but question-and-answer forums that provide little opportunity for detailed answers but many chances to commit gaffes.

For that reason, front-running candidates minimize their participation in these because they have the most to lose by making a mistake, the exact same reason those behind want more of them. Not surprisingly, Cassidy has committed to just a pair, one to be in Shreveport and broadcast over public television stations, and the other in Baton Rouge to be broadcast over a consortium of commercial television stations. He has turned down other attempted empanels, including one in New Orleans.

Mutually-agreed site selections alone are telling. Cassidy would be challenged most in New Orleans, a hostile place for Republicans and Landrieu’s home base outside of Washington, D.C. Yet Landrieu, in search of trying to get Cassidy into as many appearances as possible, consented to Cassidy’s home area of Baton Rouge (although because of state government’s influence and that a sponsor of it is Louisiana State University’s Manship School, which puts its location in confines friendly and trendy to the political left, it’s not nearly as hostile to Landrieu as New Orleans is to Cassidy). Shreveport seems to favor neither major candidate.

Naturally, Landrieu has criticized Cassidy over his selectivity, saying that if Cassidy is “not strong enough” to debate more often, then he’d be too weak as a senator. Setting aside the fact that voters in the Sixth Congressional District on three occasions thought him powerful enough to represent them in the U.S. House, this attitude represents a reversal from her opinion about debates in her last contest.

Then, she seemed perfectly satisfied to have two televised statewide debates with Republican opponent state Treasurer John Kennedy. She wasn’t badgering for more, even as Kennedy wanted more and these televised. So maybe in the past six years she’s been strengthened from being “not strong enough” then?

No, because back then from Oct. 2007, out of 13 polls, she had lead Kennedy in the last twelve straight by an average of over 10 points, with the last four especially wildly overestimating her support as she ended up winning by 7 points. The story is very different in 2014: in heads-up matches to date, Cassidy has led in six, Landrieu one, with one tie. She’s in trouble, she knows it, she needs help, and a very cost-effective way to get it is to try to set up Cassidy to maximize the chances that he makes verbal mistakes that could help her.

Recognize that Landrieu’s born-again enthusiasm for debating stems from political calculations, nothing more. In contrasting her conversion to Cassidy’s cautious approach on the matter, it really says little about his abilities to represent the state but far more about her penchant for hypocrisy and the lack of trustworthiness of her as a representative of the people which that implies.

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Jeffrey Sadow

Jeffrey Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.   He writes a daily conservative blog called Between The Lines

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