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Saturday's Runoff Will Decide If Sen. Landrieu Still Represents Louisiana
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Saturday's Runoff Will Decide If Sen. Landrieu Still Represents Louisiana

Politics

Saturday's Runoff Will Decide If Sen. Landrieu Still Represents Louisiana

Saturday's Runoff Will Decide If Sen. Landrieu Still Represents Louisiana
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Democrat Mary Landrieu is in the last day of a bitter campaign to try to keep her Senate seat. Voters will choose between Landrieu, who has served three terms, and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In this country, we know who will control the United States Senate next year, but we do not know the full list of who will be in it. Louisiana's election is undecided - going to a runoff this weekend. Democrat Mary Landrieu wants another term. She faces a strong challenge from Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Mary Landrieu has been on a whirlwind tour of Louisiana this week - stopping in towns off the beaten path like Minden, New Roads, Vidalia. She's trying to show what's done for her state during her 18 years in the U.S. Senate from federal disaster relief to wastewater grants.

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SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU: Whichever party was in control, I've been able to deliver time and time again.

ELLIOTT: Melvin Toomer is a city councilman in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. He says little towns like his need Landrieu in Washington.

MELVIN TOOMER: She's important. She's brought home the bacon for the state, you know? And it's just the bottom line.

ELLIOTT: Toomer came to support Landrieu at the stop in Hammond just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. The Republican mayor here, Mason Foster, hosted the event because he says Landrieu is in a tough battle.

MAYOR MASON FOSTER: I think that it's going to be very, very, very close, and that's why I think that it's important to people like myself to get out and let the people know what she has done for our area, not just that she's a Democrat, not just, you know, the 97 percent thing.

ELLIOTT: The 97 percent thing is Republican Bill Cassidy's battle cry.

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REPRESENTATIVE BILL CASSIDY: Senator Landrieu supports Barack Obama 97 percent of the time.

ELLIOTT: That was in a debate Monday night, Cassidy's only public appearance this final week before Saturday's runoff. And it could be that in this political climate, Cassidy needs to do little more than link Landrieu to the unpopular president. Cassidy, a doctor from Baton Rouge, has pledged to repeal Obamacare. Outside groups supporting him had been running ads like this one linking Landrieu to the health care law.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Mary Landrieu was the deciding vote to pass Obamacare.

ELLIOTT: With the midterm elections settled elsewhere, and control of Capitol Hill solidified for the GOP, Mary Landrieu has been left largely to fend for herself. National Democratic groups have pulled spending for the Louisiana runoff. Landrieu, meantime, has gone on the attack on the airwaves this week, after allegations surfaced about Cassidy's income.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: On the very same days, Congressman Bill Cassidy was in Washington casting votes and sitting in congressional committee meetings, evil twin Dr. Bill Cassidy was in Baton Rouge, submitting timesheets for teaching at LSU.

ELLIOTT: But at a Republican rally outside Baton Rouge, voters shrugged off the complaints. Brenda Clabaugh from Watson, Louisiana, is more concerned with ousting Senator Landrieu.

BRENDA CLABAUGH: I knew when she voted - when she pushed for Obamacare, I think that people in Louisiana were just waiting for her to come up for reelection.

ELLIOTT: Landrieu has been a very close races before, but even she acknowledges this time is different.

LANDRIEU: I think it's unfortunate for the whole country that partisanship has become, you know, the trump card as opposed to leadership that people vote party and not person. I think that's a real problem.

ELLIOTT: If partisanship trumps in Louisiana on Saturday, as it did in much of the rest of the country in November, the Deep South will lose its lone Democratic senator. And Republicans can boast a clean sweep of all the governors, senators and legislatures in the region. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, New Orleans.

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