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Landrieu not going down without a fight

HAMMOND, La. -- This is all but assuredly what the end looks like for Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D).

The veteran lawmaker, on her second campaign stop of the day, stood in a field at a regional airport beneath a green canvas tent, welcoming visitors to this small city an hour's drive northwest of New Orleans.

And she employed that political cliché used by so many struggling candidates before her: "It's not over until it's over. The only poll that matters is on Election Day."

With only a few days left before voters head to the polls Saturday to decide a runoff election between Landrieu and her challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R), the Democratic incumbent is working hard to frame her campaign as a state contest and not a national election about President Obama and his administration -- the latter a message that gave Republicans sweeping victories in the November elections and cost many of her Democratic colleagues their seats.

On her final campaign swing -- which included stops yesterday in a New Orleans suburb, in Baton Rouge and here in Hammond, and continues across the state today -- Landrieu has also focused her message on cutting down Cassidy, the expected victor Saturday.

At the Hammond event, Landrieu, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairwoman, touted her own seniority in the chamber, a constant theme of her bid for a fourth term, while chiding Cassidy supporters: "Why would we give this up and send a rookie to play a championship game?"

In her stump speech, Landrieu went on to flog allegations that Cassidy may have overbilled a state university for his work as a part-time medical instructor -- charges that first emerged last week and that Louisiana State University announced Monday it would investigate.

Landrieu told the crowd of about 50 spectators -- including local officials, state legislators and a scrum of reporters trailing the candidate -- "This is a big issue. I'd like you to talk to your friends and neighbors about it."

Her campaign has released multiple radio ads highlighting the allegations in recent days as well as a television spot, aiming to characterize Cassidy as a corrupt lawmaker.

Later, Landrieu argued to reporters that while recent polls show Cassidy ahead -- a trio of surveys released after the November primary gave the Republican a double-digit lead -- she has come from behind in previous bids, pointing to her runoff victories in both 1996 and 2002.

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"Every race that I have run has been a challenge," Landrieu asserted. Her 2002 comeback win also toppled a campaign that Republicans had dubbed "Operation Icing on the Cake," a reference to Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell's expected victory a month after Republicans had picked up two Senate seats to seize control of the chamber.

Landrieu's supporters similarly hark back to her past wins to voice optimism that she could pull out a victory Saturday.

"I think it's going to be a tough race, but she's got a chance. She's always had tough races," state Rep. Harold Ritchie (D) told E&E Daily at the Hammond event.

He lamented a potential Landrieu loss, however, adding: "We've all got Mary's phone number. We lose that, we lose a lot."

During her campaign swing, Landrieu's supporters, typically small-town mayors or state legislators, touted the Democrat's clout by pointing to funds she has secured for levee projects or her work on flood insurance rates.

"I'm running on my record of -- and unapologetically -- delivering for this state billions of dollars," Landrieu said at her stop in Hammond.

She also referenced her work to secure measures like the RESTORE Act and the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, as well as her recent failed bid to expedite approval of the Keystone XL pipeline through the Senate.

"Bill Cassidy's arguments that for some reason I can't pass Keystone makes me an ineffective senator just flies in the face of a really pretty extraordinary record," Landrieu told reporters in Baton Rouge, even as she acknowledged that the president would have likely vetoed any measure. "You have to keep trying."

But unlike in those previous elections, Landrieu is making her bid in a state that has tilted heavily to Republicans, leaving her as the last Democratic official elected statewide.

And while a host of national Democratic lawmakers have hit the campaign trail for Landrieu in the runoff campaign (E&E Daily, Dec. 2), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has all but abandoned Landrieu and forced her to defend herself.

"They [the DSCC] just walked away from this race, but my colleagues have not walked away," Landrieu said following a rally in Baton Rouge, noting that the Louisiana state Democratic Party has assisted her bid. Still, she added that she was "extremely disappointed" in the DSCC's decision not to set aside funding for her runoff campaign.

"This is a fight worth fighting. I have a very good record. Records should matter," she added.

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