Correcting the (Politico) Record on Louisiana

Posted November 5, 2013 at 5:13pm

I had to laugh when I saw the headline in the Nov. 4 paper edition of Politico: “Louisiana Key to GOP Senate Control.”

Of course the Pelican State is a key. But so are Alaska, North Carolina, Kentucky, Montana and at least a couple of other states. They are all keys, since they all play a part in the GOP’s effort to net six Senate seats a year from now. Louisiana is no more of a key than any of those other states.

But it wasn’t only the headline that caught my attention. There was also an odd assertion that if additional Republicans enter the Senate race, the GOP vote would be split. “That will increase the chances that Landrieu could win outright with more than 50 percent of the vote — or the Republican candidate will be badly bruised heading into the runoff.”

Of course, the first point is simply wrong, while the second conclusion is speculative.

But Politico reporter Ginger Gibson wasn’t content to make this inaccurate point only once. She did it again, 15 paragraphs later, when she wrote, “The more Republicans in the field, the more difficult it becomes for Cassidy to win outright or advance to a runoff on the first ballot and the easier it becomes for Landrieu to avoid one.”

Come again?

In reality, additional candidates in the race would not increase the chances that Landrieu would avoid a runoff.

Additional names on the ballot, no matter their party, would lessen the chances that any single candidate would win a major of the total vote, Landrieu included. Oddly, Gibson demonstrated that in her piece, when she pointed to a recent Public Policy Polling poll showing Landrieu at 50 percent in a two-way contest against Cassidy but at only 48 percent in a three-way contest that includes both Cassidy and little-known hopeful Rob Maness.

It’s true, obviously, that additional GOP candidates make it impossible for Cassidy to win outright in the jungle primary, but I know of nobody who is talking about that happening now. In fact, Cassidy’s chances improve in a runoff, since the timing of that balloting, in December, probably makes it more difficult for the Democrats to turn out some of their core constituencies.

Finally, the addition of more Republicans into the race does not automatically mean the GOP nominee who makes the runoff will be “badly bruised.” It all depends on how strong the other Republican hopefuls are and the kind of campaigns they run.