Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu kept both President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at arm’s length in Louisiana’s third Senate race debate while the race’s main Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, skipped the televised debate all together. The Senate race in Louisiana, a state that supported Mitt Romney in 2012 and where Obama is unpopular, is under close watch as Republicans seek to attain six Senate seats to retake the majority.
“[The president] is not what I set my thermometer to. I keep my eyes on the people of Louisiana. I’m not going to blame anyone but myself if I lose,” Landrieu said Monday in New Orleans.
Republican challenger and Senate hopeful Rob Maness criticized the incumbent senator for backing Obama’s health care reform law and other policies. “The president’s policies are on the ballot. That’s almost a direct quote from him,” Maness said.
Landrieu, however, defended her vote on the law, arguing that the Affordable Care Act provides more people with access to health care. “I am not backing up from the things that I have supported President Obama on,” she said. Landrieu argued her voting record has benefited the people of Louisiana.
Although Landrieu had previously said she would vote to re-elect Reid if Democrats maintain Senate control, she distanced herself slightly from the Senate majority leader during the debate and took a neutral stance. “I am going to wait to see what the leadership looks like,” she said. “We’ll see. I think Harry Reid gets beat up more than he deserves. And I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no.”
Cassidy was absent Monday, but noted he’ll take part in Wednesday's debate, to be broadcast statewide. That didn’t stop the other two contenders from taking swipes at the GOP favorite. Landrieu slammed Cassidy for voting against the Violence against Women Act and hurricane relief, and for supporting the government shutdown. Maness said the Republican Party’s complete support for Cassidy is unfair to voters and has affected his performance in debates. Maness said Landrieu as the incumbent and Cassidy being endorsed by the Republican Party has unfairly pushed him out of the spotlight as a valid Republican candidate in the polls and debates.
“I’m running against an incumbent and the other is being treated like an incumbent. I don’t think that’s what America is,” he said.
“That skews the picture.”
According to a poll released earlier this month, Cassidy is likely to head into a runoff with Landrieu. The runoff will likely come thanks to Maness, who is showing 6 percent support from the electorate. He will likely prevent Landrieu, who is at 36 percent, or Cassidy, who is at 32 percent, from winning the needed 50 percent majority to ensure election. The poll also found that 23 percent remain undecided, so both candidates have a week to make inroads with voters before Election Day, Nov. 4.
Democrats across the nation have kept a distance from Obama and his sinking approval ratings ahead of the midterm elections.