The least surprising contest of the 2014 midterms is over. Rep. Bill Cassidy ran a mistake-free campaign and massively outspent incumbent Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu to win the runoff election by 56% to 44%.
Landrieu was abandoned by the entire Democratic Party establishment, including the Democratic National Committee that pulled nearly $2 million in ad buys from her campaign a few days before the November election.
Politico reports on the raw numbers:
Landrieu publicly criticized the party for giving up on her, and she asked female colleagues to try cajoling DSCC leaders to reverse their decision.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee also scaled back its buys after the Democrats pulled out but still spent around $1 million in the runoff. Also spending around $1 million were American Crossroads, Freedom Partners and the National Rifle Association. Ending Spending, the conservative group, spent $1.7 million on TV ads and direct voter contact.
The Republican National Committee said it spent $2.9 million on the ground game, including an effort to test new tactics it wants to try during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The main outside group helping Landrieu on TV during the runoff was the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which spent a paltry $123,000.
In total, outside groups supporting Landrieu aired about 100 TV ads, compared to more than 6,000 commercials from anti-Landrieu groups.
Before the November election, Landrieu’s campaign aggressively reached out to the African-American community, which is about one-third of the electorate. But they did so carefully to avoid linking the senator too closely with Obama.
During the runoff, the campaign became much less cautious. Her chief of staff was caught on hidden camera bragging to a predominantly African-American crowd that his boss votes with Obama 97 percent of the time and would continue to — a statistic already being cited in Republican attack ads.
Also believing the runoff was ultimately a base election, Cassidy focused on winning over conservatives who didn’t vote for him in the first round. The Friday after the election, Cassidy took fellow Republican Rob Maness, who won 14 percent of the vote in the primary, to dinner at Ye Olde College Inn in New Orleans. Maness agreed to endorse Cassidy at a unity rally the following Monday.
The phones were ringing off the hook at Cassidy campaign headquarters with top-flight surrogates, including potential presidential candidates, trying to help so they could claim some credit for an anticipated win. Among those who campaigned on the ground were Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), along with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), neurologist Ben Carson and Sen.-elect Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent fundraising emails, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush headlined a high-dollar fundraiser in Washington this week.
Landrieu brought in a handful of lesser-known Senate colleagues. Hillary Clinton hosted a fundraiser for her at the start of this week, but it was in New York City.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (no relation) told the crowd at Cassdy’s victory speech something that should depress national Democrats:
Republicans now control every Senate seat, governor’s mansion and legislative body from the Texas high plains to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas.
I remember a lot of political obits written about Republicans over the years, most recently the “death” of the GOP in the Northeast. Today, the NERPs are on the rise and running highly competitive races from New England to the Mid-Atlantic states.
So as you read all the stories bemoaning the downfall of Democrats in the South, you would do well to understand that eventually — probably not in the immediate future — the Democrats will be back and competitive again in the South. The deadwood has been swept away and new, younger Democrats who understand how to reach out to Southern voters will rise.
How successful they’ll be will depend on whether they’ve learned the lessons lost on their elders who badly misread what ordinary people care about.