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It’s not a far-fetched notion that majority control of the U.S. Senate will be decided not on Nov. 4 but on Dec. 6. The second date is the one of the likely election runoff in the Louisiana Senate race.

Louisiana will have an open primary in November, and three-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing not one, but two Republicans, plus a Libertarian. U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge physician, is the GOP candidate who could actually win the seat. But self-proclaimed tea party Republican Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel, right now is drawing enough support to prevent either Landrieu or Cassidy from winning outright in November. Most of the polls that show a statistical tie between Landrieu and Cassidy are surveys of that potential runoff.

One can only imagine the out-of-state money that will pour into the state if a runoff happens.

Cassidy has all but declared that the race is a national one. He maintains that ousting Landrieu would mean firing Harry Reid as Senate majority leader. And of course, he says Landrieu has been and would be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama. The president is deeply unpopular here, not only because of Obamacare and other national issues, but also because he is widely seen as being hostile to the energy industry, vital to Louisiana’s economy.

Even more depends on the outcome of this race: It might prove a blow to the believed presidential aspirations of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal if Landrieu is again reelected. There is speculation that Jindal has not officially endorsed Cassidy over Maness because Cassidy is supported by GOP Sen. David Vitter, whose feud with Jindal is no secret.

Landrieu counters Cassidy’s narrative with the message that her office’s renowned constituent services and her clout as a Senate veteran trump partisan considerations. She is chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

It may be a measurement of Obama’s unpopularity that until this year, Landrieu had increased her margin of victory in each try at getting elected or reelected senator.

Landrieu also touts the benefits she has brought to the state, including flood insurance reform, more oil-drilling revenue to Louisiana, and her role in keeping open an army base that been threatened with closure. She advocates the building of the Keystone Pipeline, which has significant symbolic importance here.

It probably helps her, too, that the Landrieu name is a political legacy in Louisiana. Her father is a former congressman and mayor of New Orleans, and her brother Mitch Landrieu is now mayor there.

The biggest new development in the race is Cassidy’s rising prowess in fundraising. He outraised Landrieu in the last reporting period by $629,000 to $576,000, although incumbent Landrieu still holds a big advantage in total fundraising for this election cycle, roughly $14 million to Cassidy’s $8.6 million. These totals will swell as national Super PACs increasingly invade the state. Many analysts believe this will be the costliest Senate race in Louisiana history.

The Louisiana race is like a finely spun web: The tiniest vibration shakes up the whole thing. The race is that close.

One of the latest ‘vibrations’ is the accusation that Landrieu has been using taxpayer funds to pay for campaign expenses. She hasn’t denied it, but instead has initiated an internal investigation by her own Senate office.

These accusations may seem paltry in a state whose voters have traditionally tolerated no small amount of corruption in their elected officials. But again, the race is so close that every strike against a candidate could be potentially fatal.

There’s been other squabbling over issues that would seem to have little impact in all but the closest elections, including potential economic sanctions against Venezuela, which sells oil to Louisiana refineries; and the effort by some congressional Republicans to close an obscure federal banking agency.

The obvious key to the race is Maness, the ‘second Republican.’ If he and the Libertarian force a December runoff, there could be a national war in Louisiana.




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