Landrieu Looking For Ways To Avoid December Runoff

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Even though a runoff seems inevitable in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu continues to say she believes an outright victory is possible for her Tuesday.

         If that can't happen, Landrieu needs a strong enough showing on Election Day to energize her supporters and keep them believing a loss isn't looming in December. A win would only become more difficult if a Louisiana runoff decides control of the U.S. Senate.

         A runoff election is scheduled if no candidate receives more than half the votes in the race.

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         Landrieu's showing Tuesday, if she falls below 50 percent of the vote, could be a strong predictor in how difficult a Dec. 6 victory might be in her effort to return to Congress for a fourth term.

         Polling shows the race moving to a head-to-head competition between Landrieu and her chief Republican competitor Bill Cassidy, a congressman. GOP contender and tea party favorite Rob Maness is running a distant third.

         Some things to consider in advance of Election Day:

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         More than 236,000 voters cast ballots through Louisiana's early voting period — about 8 percent of the state's 2.9 million registered voters. The ballot has generated stronger interest than the last midterm congressional elections in 2010, when only 125,000 voted early.

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         About 64 percent of early voters were white, while 32 percent were black, proportional to their makeup among registered voters overall. Democrats and Republicans turned out in higher numbers than voters without a party affiliation.



         Secretary of State Tom Schedler predicts about 45 percent to 50 percent of registered voters will go to the polls. Landrieu's been trying to ramp up interest with rallies geared toward women, elderly voters and college students, but polls suggest Republicans are more energized than Democrats.

         Also working against Landrieu, the pool of Democratic voters in Louisiana has been shrinking while she's been in office. When she was first elected 18 years ago, two-thirds of registered voters were Democrats. That has dropped to 47 percent today.

         Edward Chervenak, director of the University of New Orleans Survey Research Center, said GOP voters historically are more likely to show up for a midterm congressional election.

         To win outright Tuesday, Chervenak said Landrieu would need strong turnout from single women, minorities and young people. "The problem for Landrieu is these folks don't normally show up for the midterms," he said.



         Landrieu needs a big turnout from black voters, who form a sizable base of her support, and the Democratic Party is making a strong push for African-Americans to head to the polls. The senator has been campaigning with prominent black leaders, and they have talked of her support for the state's historically black colleges, an increase in the federal minimum wage and boosts to college student grants.

         Political strategist Ben Jeffers, working for the Louisiana Democratic Party on minority turnout efforts, told a forum at Southern University that he believes black voter turnout will be boosted by races in which African-American candidates are on the ballot. He said a heated mayor's race in Shreveport and close U.S. House races in the Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Monroe areas should drum up interest from black voters.

         But Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction, State Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas, is trying to peel black voter support from Landrieu. His political action committee is running an ad that accuses the Democratic senator of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.



         Landrieu's campaign has staunchly refused to book TV ad time after Tuesday's election. But major political groups, representing both Democrats and Republicans, and outside organizations have reserved millions in air time in anticipation of a head-to-head contest on Dec. 6. Polls consistently show Landrieu well below the 50 percent mark in a field that has eight contenders.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte

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