Former President Bill Clinton told a cheering crowd of Mary Landrieu supporters on Monday that voter turnout and early voting will be key to Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race this fall.
“I’m fixing to make an argument, and I love to do that, but it won’t matter to a hill of beans if you don’t show up,” Clinton told about a thousand Landrieu supporters during a nearly 20-minute speech that capped a larger rally for Landrieu in Baton Rouge.
The president and former Arkansas governor has been seen as a key surrogate for Democrats who, like Landrieu, are facing tight elections in states that tend to lean more Republican and where President Barack Obama isn’t as popular.
Monday marked Clinton’s second trip to Louisiana to stump for Landrieu in as many months, following a New Orleans fundraiser.
Landrieu, who is seeking a fourth term in the Senate, faces Republican frontrunner U.S. Congressman Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, in the Nov. 4 election. With several other candidates in the running — including tea party-backed Republican Rob Maness — a Dec. 6 runoff likely will determine the election.
Early voting runs through Oct. 28. More than half a dozen speakers at Landrieu’s rally Monday all stressed early voting — indicating a heavy push on the part of Democrats.
Clinton’s speech largely struck back at claims that Landrieu is too Democratic for Louisiana. He called her one of the least partisan members of the Senate and said she should be cruising to re-election with ease if not for the current political tide.
“She’d be winning this race by 10 or 15 or 20 points but for the difficulty of the moment in which we’re living,” Clinton said.
Landrieu, who spoke briefly to the crowd prior to Clinton’s appearance, also touted her time in office.
“I’m proud of my record,” she said.
Clinton said Republicans are running against Obama’s administration in this election cycle.
“We all know what’s going on, us Southerners, in this election,” Clinton said. “You cannot afford to vote for what you’re against. You have to vote for what you’re for.”
He ran through a laundry list of Landrieu’s campaign talking points: college loan refinancing and increasing the Pell Grant, her support for raising the minimum wage and energy policies — stances he said would help strengthen the economy.
“We’ve got to build a future we can all share — a future of shared prosperity, shared opportunity and shared responsibility,” he said.
Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a possible 2016 presidential contender, have made a few similar pleas for traditionally red-state Democrats, as Republicans focus on Obama, who is less popular in those states. Clinton spent the weekend in Arkansas stumping for Democrats facing tight elections there this year. He’s also made repeated stops in Kentucky this cycle.
Obama — and control of the U.S. Senate — has been central to the GOP’s push here in Louisiana, and Obama, himself, acknowledged on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show Monday that Democrats in states he didn’t win in his two presidential elections, like Louisiana, have distanced themselves from him.
A week ago, Cassidy appeared with U.S. Sen. John McCain at a veterans event at the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum in Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, McCain’s vice presidential running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has stumped for Maness.
McCain, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2008 and has been in the Senate the entire time Landrieu has, focused largely on criticizing Obama during the Baton Rouge appearance. Speaking to the press afterward, he slammed Louisiana’s senior senator as ineffective. “She hasn’t done anything in the time I’ve known her,” McCain said.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who can’t seek re-election because of term limits but is weighing a run for president, has stayed mostly out of the U.S. Senate race but blasted Clinton and Landrieu as a “match made in heaven” after the former president’s appearance.
The written statement, sent from Jindal’s press office on official letterhead, targeted Landrieu’s support for the federal Affordable Care Act and said Clinton ignored opportunities to address Medicare during his presidency.
“The truth is that President Clinton and Senator Landrieu care more about Medicaid than Medicare,” Jindal said, comparing the health care program that serves the poor with the program that serves mostly elderly and disabled Americans.
Cassidy’s campaign didn’t directly respond to Clinton’s visit, but Ben Voelkel, a Republican National Committee spokesman based in Louisiana, said in a statement that Clinton’s visit was a distraction.
“Bringing President Clinton to town only underscores how much Mary Landrieu has swung to the liberal end of the Democratic Party, as her support of President Obama’s policies 97 percent of the time demonstrate,” he said. “Landrieu’s rock solid support for President Obama shows that his agenda is her agenda, and Louisiana voters can see through today’s misdirection.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana Politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz">http://blogs.the advocate.com/politicsblog.