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.
They fought over abortion, Obamacare, tax reform, drug testing of welfare recipients, saving Medicare and Social Security, and Landrieu’s inability to win Senate approve for legislation that would have allowed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which Bill Cassidy continually referred to as the “Cassidy bill.”
Cassidy also did his best to tie Landrieu to President Obama and disparage her remark to NBC’s Chuck Todd that inferred Obama is not popular in Louisiana because of racism.
Landrieu said her remarks about racism had been “misconstrued.” While not walking away from the Democrat in the Oval Office, Landrieu said that she was her own person.
During the debate, Landrieu pushed back against the idea that she voted with Obama 97 percent of the time along with the idea that she said to oppose the black president was to be a racist.
However, in an ad that has been running on black radio stations, and was approved by Landrieu and paid for by the “Friends of Mary Landrieu,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) played both the “disrespect” and the “fear of impeachment” cards.
Referring to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Bill Cassidy and “the Republicans,” Richmond said, “They have shown our president so much disrespect. They said he wasn’t a U.S. citizen, they even sued him – and if Cassidy wins, they will impeach him.”
Landrieu said the slings and arrows she suffered on that issue are typical of Cassidy, who “makes things up as he goes along and he has made up that.”
“I said the South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. That is what I said.”
“You can look at the video and see what she said,” Cassidy replied.
Cassidy admitted peeking at Landrieu’s notes during their exchange over abortion as he said one of the clear distinctions of this race was that he is “pro life and she is not.”
Cassidy has supported legislation known as “pain capable.” He said the ability to abort a fetus should end at 20 weeks because of the ability to feel pain and survive outside the womb.
“That is a life and should be saved,” said Cassidy.
Landrieu, who needs as many Catholic voters on her side as possible to pull off a Dec. 6 upset, said she believes in almost every case that abortion is immoral.
But she does not believe government should make the choice for the mother.
“My record has been misconstrued. I have two adopted children. I do not promote abortion and never have,” she said. “I guess this is my Catholic faith speaking out.”