Cassidy crushes Landrieu in Louisiana Senate runoff

The outcome of Saturday's Senate runoff election in Louisiana was never in doubt. The writing was on the wall the day after the November 4 election when Landrieu could only muster 42% of the vote - only 18% of the white vote. While this qualified her for the runoff, the entire Democratic party establishment wrote her off as a lost cause. They pulled nearly $2 million in ad buys from the race while no Democrat of national prominence ever made it to Louisiana to help Landrieu in her hour of need (Hillary Clinton held a fundraiser for Landrieu in New York last week.)

So no one was surprised when Republican congressman Bill Cassidy buried the incumbent Senator 56% to 44% in the runoff election.

Politico reports some of the numbers that show just how one sided this campaign was:

Cassidy, 57, ran a low-profile campaign featuring fewer public events. He made the remarkable decision to spend Wednesday and Thursday in Washington for routine House votes, a reflection of his confidence.

The only debate of the runoff took place Monday and produced nothing close to a game-changing moment. Cassidy was awkward and stiff, while Landrieu tried to gin up controversy over him earning $20,000-a-year to practice medicine at Louisiana State University while collecting his congressional paycheck.

Landrieu found herself on the defensive for improperly billing taxpayers more than $30,000 in private charter flights to campaign events since 2002. But the debate mainly focused on the issues that have defined the contest, such as Obamacare, gun control and abortion. Landrieu is on the wrong side of the state’s electorate on each.

She made two significant strategic miscalculations. First, she thought she could win outright in November and spent accordingly — burning through almost $16 million, more than double what Cassidy spent. Second, she thought control of the Senate could come down to the results in Louisiana, which would guarantee national Democrats spent millions — or maybe tens of millions — on her behalf.

Neither came to pass. Just two days after the first round of voting, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee canceled $1.9 million of advertising reservations it had made to help in the runoff.

Landrieu publicly criticized the party for giving up on her, and she asked female colleagues to try cajoling DSCC leaders to reverse their decision.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also scaled back its buys after the Democrats pulled out but still spent around $1 million in the runoff. Also spending around $1 million were American Crossroads, Freedom Partners and the National Rifle Association. Ending Spending, the conservative group, spent $1.7 million on TV ads and direct voter contact.

The Republican National Committee said it spent $2.9 million on the ground game, including an effort to test new tactics it wants to try during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The main outside group helping Landrieu on TV during the runoff was the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which spent a paltry $123,000.

In total, outside groups supporting Landrieu aired about 100 TV ads, compared to more than 6,000 commercials from anti-Landrieu groups.

Senator Jerry Moran (no relation), the outgoing chair of the GOP Senate campaign committee, said something in his victory speech that should depress the hell out of Democrats:

Republicans now control every Senate seat, governor’s mansion and legislative body from the Texas high plains to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas.”

An observation born of studying and writing about politics for 40 years: Democrats will be back. It may take them a while. They will resist the changes that have to make for them to become competitive again. But massive defeat for a political party is a big motivator. The deadwood has been cleared away by the GOP wave and new, younger Democrats will rise, and one day be successful - if they can adapt to the political realities that Democrats failed to understand these last few election cycles.

I remember the same kinds of stories and columns following GOP defeats in 1976, 92, 96, 2006, and 2008. The Northeastern Republcan party was left for dead in 2008. Today it is on the upswing. The national party was declared DOA following the 1976 Carter win. They won the next three national elections. Nothing is permanent in politics and Landrieu's defeat, in retrospect, will be seen as the low point for Democratic politics in the South.

There's no place for them to go but up.