Congress may eventually approve the Keystone XL pipeline, but it’s becoming increasingly likely that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) won’t be able to witness it as a member of the U.S. Senate. The Crystal Ball is moving the rating in Landrieu’s runoff race against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) from Leans Republican to Likely Republican.
We announced that ratings change before Landrieu’s Hail Mary pass — a Senate vote to approve Keystone XL, a contentious oil pipeline that would run from Canada down the middle of the United States — failed to clear the needed 60 votes in the Senate. In reality, though, the vote did not change Landrieu’s reelection chances: They were poor before the vote, and they are poor now.
The results of the Nov. 4 midterm confirmed that not only was 2014 a very Republican year, but also that red state Democrats would pay a disproportionate political price in this polarized era. Coming into the election, Democrats were defending seven Senate seats in states won by Mitt Romney in 2012, and Republicans won the six that were decided on Election Night. Only Landrieu remains. Polling has been scarce, but what surveys we do have show Cassidy comfortably ahead. We also have what politicians routinely call “the only poll that matters,” the actual results on Election Night: 55.7% of all the votes went to Cassidy and other Republican candidates, while Landrieu and other Democrats won 43.4% (a Libertarian got the remaining 0.9 points worth of votes). That’s a rather deep hole for Landrieu.
Outside Democratic groups have abandoned Landrieu, and Republican forces have almost total command of the airwaves. The GOP seems so confident that the National Republican Senatorial Committee recently canceled some of its television ads.
Crystal Ball Senior Columnist Alan Abramowitz of Emory University recently created a forecast for the Louisiana runoff, using just two variables — a state’s 2012 presidential vote and whether an incumbent is running — to explain the results in this year’s Senate races. The forecast suggests that Landrieu will lose by 11 points.
Could something change in the next two weeks to change the outcome? Potentially: Landrieu is a survivor, and she won tough runoffs in 1996 and 2002. But that was a different Louisiana, one that was more open to sending Democrats to the Senate.
At this point, all the signs we have point to a Cassidy win. If he does prevail, Republicans will have a 54-46 majority at the start of the 114th Congress, and some breathing room for 2016, when they are defending 24 seats (Democrats are only defending 10).
We’ll begin exploring those races after Thanksgiving.