If recent polls are any indication, Louisiana voters are not too keen on any of the choices for U.S. Senator in the coming fall election. A number of national surveys have found that every candidate running has a higher negative than positive rating in the Bayou state. Maybe it’s time for Louisiana to consider offering a third choice. None of the Above.
In a recent poll released by the non-partisan Public Policy Polling organization, incumbent senator Mary Landrieu receives a favorable rating of only 42%, but has a negative in the state of 52%. Her major challenger, Republican congressman Bill Cassidy, doesn’t do any better with 28% of voters favoring him, but 36% finding him unfavorable. Tea Party candidate Rob Mannes weighs in at a paltry 14% favorable with a high 28% unfavorable rating.
So what gives? Are Louisiana voters ambivalent about their choices? Are they turned off by politics all together? And are they searching for some other alternative? Maybe it’s time to consider a third choice-None of the Above.
Bearing in mind the negatives she brings to the table, incumbent Landrieu should consider herself lucky to be still competitive in this race. She’s been in lockstep with a highly unpopular president, voting with Obama some 97% of the time, and has been a staunch supporter of much-maligned Obamacare. The Senator has become a Washington establishment figure, rarely returning to the state, and is considered out of touch by many of the locals back home.
Landrieu brags about her political clout, particularly as the new Senate Energy chairman. But she’s been chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee for years, and the current immigration policy put forth by her committee and congress is in shambles. Her current TV spots tell voters how important she is in Washington at a time when the electorate across the nation holds incumbency in low regard. Landrieu just doesn’t come across as “one of us.”
Her main challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, has yet to put together a cohesive campaign. Cassidy’s whole focus is to tie Landrieu to the unpopular president and criticize her for her past actions in the senate. His strategy is to attack and oppose. In conservative Louisiana, Cassidy is trying his best to make the race a fight of the right vs the left. But he’s getting little traction. With Landrieu’s negatives, Cassidy should be way ahead in this race.
Cassidy is missing a great opportunity. His campaign should offer voters his strong belief that ideas matter. Cassidy has mistakenly framed the elections in terms of right vs left. He should be talking about the past vs. the future. Cassidy has overlooked the dynamic comparison that Landrieu is an out of touch, establishment, typical Washington politician, where he is offering a roadmap for Louisiana’s future. That’s exactly what Newt Gingrich did 20 years ago when he set out his Contract with America. Simply put, Cassidy is running, like Landrieu, a campaign out of the past and is missing a golden opportunity to project a forward thinking vision.
The third candidate, Col. Rob Mannes, is hampered by Louisiana’s unique “jungle primary,” where all candidates run in the same race. If Mannes were challenging Cassidy in any other state, where a party primary is held, his Tea Party affiliation would give him a much better chance. He actually helps Cassidy by assuring a run off, that will make it more difficult for Landrieu to prevail.
When I was a state senator back in the 1970s, I proposed legislation that would include an additional choice for voters. None of the Above. If the choice of none of the above received the most votes, a new election would be required.
I wasn’t successful at the time. But if the choice was available in the current Louisiana U.S. Senate race, the polls show that None of the Above would win in a landslide. And to many voters here in the Bayou State, that wouldn’t be all that bad.