Rob Maness may or may not win the Louisiana Senate race or even be the top Republican.
What is certain is that he will have an influence on the winner of the race.
Louisiana has an open primary system in which everyone is on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election. If no one has a clear majority, they will go to the runoff on Dec. 6.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) are running close together, according to a poll released Oct. 27 by USA Today and Suffolk University.
The poll found 36 percent of voters pledging to cast a ballot for the senior senator while 35 percent planned to vote for Cassidy. Eleven percent backed Maness.
The survey included 500 randomly called people who said they were very likely to vote or had already voted in the election.
Real Clear Politics expects a runoff, with the latest polling average putting Cassidy 4.5 points ahead.
While Maness is far behind both Landrieu and Cassidy, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin supports the Tea Party challenger from Madisonville, La. She’s predicting Maness winning the Senate seat.
“Like a gator in the swamp, Col. Rob Maness may have been seen as sharply lurking, but is now ready to pounce,” Palin said in a statement to RCP. “This is the election that will be the shocker on Tuesday.”
Polls from two Louisiana universities are also forecasting a runoff. A poll by the University of New Orleans surveyed 590 voters and found that Landrieu would not have enough votes to avoid a runoff, according to The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate. LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab released results of a poll that stated that 85 percent of Republicans are certain of voting compared with 75 percent of Democrats. The LSU poll was based on interviews with 1,021 adults, 944 of them self-identified as registered voters.
Since Maness has been in the race, there has been tension between him and the state’s Republican Party.
A story in The Times-Picayune stated that the Maness campaign is accusing state GOP chairman Roger Villere of coercing newer members of the party by withholding support if they did not switch their vote to Cassidy.
Villere denied the claim. “Bill Cassidy has my support and that of thousands of other Louisianans because he is the only candidate that can defeat Mary Landrieu and return control of the Senate to Republicans,” he told the new outlet in an Oct. 23 story. “Any suggestion of another motive is nonsense.”
Unlike Mississippi, Louisiana voters have had an opportunity to see all three candidates in two debates. All three candidates have also either been receiving endorsements or support from big names.
Dr. Ben Carson and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) participated in a rally for Cassidy.
The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund is endorsing Maness while the retired Air Force colonel also has the backing of talk show host Glenn Beck.
Former Mississippi GOP Senate candidate Chris McDaniel also stated his support for Maness.
“Make no mistake, Rob is fighting the very same fight were still fighting in Mississippi,” McDaniel said in a statement. “In Louisiana, Colonel Maness is leading the way.”
Maness, like McDaniel, is facing well-established incumbents and the state senator said he admires his courage.
“Rob’s courage is impressive,” McDaniel said. “To put himself in the line of fire and be willing to have a real conversation with the voters and to drive to reach positive solutions is a rare quality.”
McDaniel’s campaign has lent Maness operational support. The two tailgated together at the Oct. 25 LSU vs. Ole Miss football game in Baton Rouge.
If past results are any indication a win by Landrieu might be a slim victory, according to Michael Henderson, the research director in LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab.
In an Oct. 27 blog post on the Brookings Institution’s website, he said that if Landrieu loses it would be the first time since 1876 that Louisiana has not had at least one Democrat in elected statewide office.
Republicans are becoming more dominant in Louisiana, Henderson stated. A Democratic candidate has not won the governor’s office since 2003.
While each of Landrieu’s campaigns has been competitive, the margins ranged from less than a half percent to six percent.