Landrieu's Last Stand: Final Debate of the Undecided Senate Race

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) looked like she would just as soon spit in Rep. Bill Cassidy’s (R-La.) eye as shake his hand, but shake it she did, as quickly and lightly as possible when their Monday night debate ended.

It was the first and only time the two were scheduled to meet face-to-face since the November general election and before the Dec. 6 runoff election which will decide who goes to Washington to represent Louisiana in the U.S. Senate.

Landrieu is in real trouble. She trailed Cassidy by 11, 15 and 21 points respectively in the three latest voter surveys of their race, released Nov. 20.

During the statewide-televised debate, she battled Cassidy just the way someone with nothing left to lose would be expected to fight.

Cassidy, on the other hand, fought like a chess player whose opponent has already lost the game and is just waiting for the formality of checkmate.

It all got very personal.

Landrieu began the debate by doing more than simply questioning Cassidy’s honesty, which is tough to do in a state where one person’s corruption is another person’s tradition.

She warned Cassidy he would not only be fighting President Obama if he won the election, he would be battling subpoena after subpoena as state and federal officials filed criminal charges against him.

She accused Cassidy, who is also a physician specializing in the treatment of liver diseases, of padding his payroll and turning in bogus time sheets at the Louisiana State University Earl K. Long Medical Center.

Landrieu’s campaign backed up her debate performance with a series of radio ads that accused Cassidy of submitting fraudulent time sheets at the LSU medical clinic.

“This is the story of Congressman Bill Cassidy and his evil twin, Dr. Bill Cassidy,” the radio ad announcer says.

“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 time sheets for teaching at LSU.”

Landrieu said during the debate LSU had not been able to find all of the time sheets Cassidy should have submitted. She said some that have been discovered are not signed and others are signed with sloppy signatures that could have been written by anyone —“doctor’s handwriting,” Cassidy explained.

Landrieu said Cassidy was not a “doctor for the poor,” as he repeatedly claimed, but “a doctor for himself” who had taken more than $20,000 per year for five years from the medical center for work he did not perform.

Cassidy returned the serve on the corruption and dishonesty themes.

He accused Landrieu of using federal taxpayer money to pay for campaign trips on charter planes.

Landrieu admitted it happened. She said it was merely a bookkeeping error and her campaign paid close to $35,000 in October to the U.S. Treasury to make up for the mistake.

Landrieu brought financial records to the debate to prove it, and showed them to the audience before the debate’s moderator warned that “props are not allowed.”

And that was just the beginning of the hottest hour of commercial-free TV available Monday in the great state of Louisiana.