Thursday, 11 December 2014 14:39

Mary Landrieu forgot politics is local

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tip-oneilby Jim Brown

Former U.S. House speaker Tip O’Neill said it time and time again.  All politics is local. I interviewed Tip on a New Orleans television show I hosted back in the 1990s.  He went on for sometime that you have to be intimately involved in your home state, if you want to survive.  It’s a lesson that Senator Mary Landrieu forgot. 


Some political pundits are saying that Landrieu’s defeat was based on national issues like Obamacare.  Not completely true.  Every issue discussed in Washington has a local slant.  If Landrieu was not able to localize the debate, she only has her own self to blame.  And it’s not second-guessing her campaign tactics now that the election is over.  There were obvious and common sense steps she could have, and should have taken years ago to make a re-election victory more plausible. 

First all, knowing full well that she was to be engaged in the fight of her political life, Landrieu should have moved her family back to Baton Rouge several years ago.  The lady just wasn’t around.  Republicans kept pounding away at her multi-million dollar Washington mansion, and her only residence in Louisiana was her parents home.  For many voters, that just didn’t wash.  Her opponent, and eventual winner Dr. Bill Cassidy, has his primary residence in Baton Rouge where his family lives full time, and where he continued his work at a local hospital when he wasn’t in Washington. 

Few voters ever saw Landrieu outside of a handful of major cities.  Landrieu handily beat Cassidy in Louisiana’s three largest municipalities:  New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport.  But she was decimated in less populated areas where locals know each other well, and also are well aware of personalities who come to visit.  I made a number of calls in parishes throughout Northeast Louisiana where I used to serve as a state senator, and where Landrieu was solidly defeated.  In call after call, I heard the same thing.  “We haven’t seen or heard from Mary Landrieu in years.”  At fairs, festivals, rotary clubs, and council meetings, neither she nor her staff ever showed up.  She became a Washington insider and lost contact with the folks that put her in office. 

How about the charge that she supported the president 97% of the time?  The White House took a position on less than 25% of all votes taken by senators, and more than half of its positions involved presidential nominees and federal judges.  A number of Republican senators often voted with the President’s position, and Landrieu did so less than the vast majority of Democrats. Would Cassidy have opposed Landrieu’s votes to confirm the numerous Louisiana judges that Republican Senator David Vitter supported?  Landrieu should have aggressively stated that this is a phony issue, and that Cassidy needed to specifically say what presidential nominees he would have opposed.  But she just stood by and let the Cassidy attacks continue. 

Obamacare?  Democrats right and left are running away from it.  Liberal New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) said just this week it was a mistake.  Yet Landrieu keep hanging on.  Her position should have been: “Look, Obamacare is not working out, insurance companies are making a killing, and the program needs a major fix. What passed is quite similar to what Congressman Cassidy proposed when he was in the Louisiana legislature.  So we both made mistakes.  I’m ready to go back to the drawing board and change the law.” 

And where was her opposition research?  In the final days of the campaign, Landrieu attacked Cassidy for billing hours at a Louisiana public hospital when he was actually in Washington.  A good issue, but why didn’t it surface months ago?  Landrieu let her opponent off the hook, rarely attacked him on his own voting record, and spent most of her time defending herself.  Any incumbent in a close race should be attacking and playing offense.  The lady spent most of her campaign on defense.  And that was a losing strategy. 

Would this more aggressive localized approach made any difference?  Maybe not.  But in the end, Landrieu focused on raising out of state money, and ran a Washington based halfhearted campaign.  No, she did not lose her senate race in the final weeks.  She lost it years ago.  Old Tip is somewhere, shaking his head in disappointment. 


"I just know, before this is over, I'm gonna need a whole lot of serious therapy. Look at my eye twitching." —  (Democratic?) Donkey (from Shrek, 2001) 

Peace and Justice 

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at       


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Jim Brown

Jim Brown is a Louisiana legislator, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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