Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Senate Majority Might Not Be Decided Until December

senate majority

The Senate majority could be decided late in Louisiana if Landrieu's race goes to runoff. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

For all the money spent on the November elections, control of the Senate might not be decided until a Saturday three weeks before Christmas.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., hopes to win re-election outright on Nov. 4 in a jungle primary against a handful of challengers. But winning a majority of the vote in a multi-candidate field would be a significant feat, and the campaigns of both Landrieu and her leading Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, are undoubtedly preparing for an extended, one-on-one race.

If a Dec. 6 runoff coincides with a 50-49 Republican advantage in the Senate, consultants in and out of the state warn of an unprecedented onslaught of spending from party committees and outside groups in a race that could become more about the national parties than the two candidates on the ballot.

“Mary kind of becomes a pawn in a much, much bigger game,” said Dane Strother, a Democratic media consultant and Baton Rouge native who’s worked on previous Landrieu campaigns. “The entire force of national politics will land on Louisiana. They’ll buy every radio ad, every TV ad, inundate with direct mail. It will be a war.”

Republicans like their odds in a runoff — especially if the majority is on the line — but Landrieu has won in overtime before. The Democrat won her first two of three elections for the Senate after advancing beyond a jungle primary. In her first victory, in 1996, Landrieu finished second in the primary, and the Democratic candidates on the all-party ballot totaled just 44 percent.

But if the majority is still on the line after Election Day, the race could transform into a referendum on President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For all the focus and money Landrieu has spent highlighting her influence in the Senate and on catchy and clutter-cutting ads featuring her father — former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu — to win the race in November, those could inevitably become secondary thoughts for voters deciding the balance of power in Washington.

If she won in this scenario, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. would be the deciding vote in an evenly divided Senate. If she lost, Republicans would take a 51-49 majority.

“The runoff scenario where control of the Senate is on the line is the nightmare scenario for Mary Landrieu,” said Timmy Teepell, a Baton Rouge-based GOP consultant to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. “If you look at the polling numbers, and how Louisiana feels about the direction of the Obama administration, and the direction Harry Reid has taken the U.S. Senate, they’re overwhelmingly opposed to it.”

Having the majority decided in Louisiana is possible, but countless variables would have to fall a certain way for it to happen. Republicans, who now control 45 Senate seats, would have to net five seats on Election Day. That would include building a coalition from a collection of pickup opportunities in South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Alaska, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and beyond.

Republicans are also defending seats in Kentucky, Georgia and, if state Sen. Chris McDaniel knocks off Sen. Thad Cochran in the GOP primary runoff next week, Mississippi.

It’s unlikely, but there might also be a runoff in Georgia, where Democrats hope to pick up an open seat. In that case, the Senate majority may not be decided until Jan. 6. Republicans would be heavy favorites to hold the seat in a runoff in the GOP-leaning state.

Most importantly for this scenario to unfold in Louisiana, Republicans would need to hold Landrieu to 50 percent or less in the jungle primary. That will be easier for Cassidy, the favored candidate of national Republicans, with other candidates in the race. The most notable among them is Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel backed by Sarah Palin and the Senate Conservatives Fund. The filing deadline isn’t until Aug. 22, so the exact number of candidates won’t be known for two more months.

Still, Republicans aren’t taking Landrieu’s political operation lightly. As one former Louisiana GOP operative said, “Nobody is going to out-campaign her on the ground.”

In the meantime, Landrieu is working to avoid a challenging runoff in a state Obama took just 41 percent of the vote in 2012. She had $7.5 million in cash on hand at the end of March — to Cassidy’s $5 million — just before she kicked off more than $2 million in ads over about three months.

Three of her most recent ads have featured her father, who, sitting casually alongside the senator, helps explain what she did for the state after Hurricane Katrina and issues she’s fighting the administration on, such as the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

She’s put an emphasis on highlighting her influence in the Democrat-controlled chamber. As chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Landrieu scheduled a vote Wednesday on a bill approving the pipeline. And as chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, she announced last week new efforts surrounding flood insurance issues.

But the Cassidy campaign is tying her to national Democrats at every chance it gets. In an email to supporters on Tuesday, the campaign highlighted Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., headlining a Landrieu fundraiser in New Orleans last weekend, saying he “isn’t mainstream Louisiana.”

Bernie Pinsonat, a Louisiana-based pollster who has worked for candidates in both parties, said to not expect to see either candidate conserve money for the runoff, especially Landrieu. And if the outcome of the runoff can give Republicans the Senate majority in 2015 — rather than simply decrease the Democrats’ majority — he doesn’t see a path to victory for her.

“If this race is to decide who controls the Senate,” Pinsonat said, “good luck, Mary Landrieu, because Louisiana is such a red state now she won’t go back.”

  • Tommy

    Regardless of how much money the Dems spend to re-elect Landrieu, it won’t happen in a Louisiana that grows deeper red each day Obama is president and the senate is controlled by Democrats.
    Bye Mary, and good riddance!

  • Eric

    I doubt it comes to this. November is looking more and more like a Republican landslide and it seems every day the administration or some other Democrat only enhances those chances. At this rate, The Republicans will have the Senate locked up by the time the polls close on the west coast

  • Sharon Tomalavage

    While I believe Mary is toast, it won’t matter for control as the republicans will already have at least 52 seats, perhaps more.

  • fidel305

    this is what you dems are now counting on to try to eke out a tie in the senate.

  • Whit_Chambers

    Mary will be defeated and if there is a runoff required, it won’t matter.

    The Repubs will pick up 7 seats even without Louisiana.

    It is going to be great to see Harry Reid lose the majority!!

  • Drumwaster

    If it turns out to be 50-50, I wonder how interested the Dems will be for an even share of Senate control compared as to how much they pushed for that in 2000, when it was also a 50-50 Senate (with Al Gore as the tie-breaker for the first two weeks and Cheney after the Jan 20th inauguration, and the “Majority Leader” position changing hands on that day), they were fighting for every scrap of power – for shared committee chairmanships, equal committee membership on both sides and all the rest – right up until June, when Jeffords jumped ship and switched parties to Ind (caucusing with the Dems), then it was “forget all that, not to mention the horses you rode in on, WE own this puppy now!”

    Until the people gave the GOP a clear majority in the next election two years later.

    There would be no way Harry “the Searchlight Strangler” Reid would be remotely interested in a similar plan. Why, if he shared power, the Senate might actually have to vote on a budget! (1,877 days and counting since the last one, as of this morning.)

  • Nick Scanlan

    I guess you are ignoring the 2 year budget deal that was passed after negotiations by Paul Ryan and Murray.

  • rene591

    let see. the 2015 Congress will be more non interventionist and more socially libertarian. and you guys can stuff your 2 party paradigm because less and less people are listening . see Cantor and soon to be Cochran loss

  • View From The Left

    Judging on how obstructionist the GOP has been on virtually every vote, including procedural votes, I would expect the EXACT SAME treatment from the Democrats if they’re in the minority.
    I’d like to see Mitch McConnell break a filibuster and pass a budget when he only has 51 or 52 Senators!

  • View From The Left

    weren’t you the one crowing about how the GOPiggies were going to take back the Senate in 2010…and then 2012?
    Now it’s 2014?
    Keep wishing, you couldn’t do it before and you can’t do it now.
    Senate stays Democratic in 2014!

  • View From The Left

    and it won’t matter if the GOPiggies control the Senate as they won’t have the 60 votes needed to overcome Democratic filibusters.

  • View From The Left

    Oh yes, with Thom Tillis whipping up the “traditional” white population in North Carolina, I’m sure it’s going to be a GOP Wave!
    Get ready for the “Not Yet Ready for PrimeTime” GOP Senate hopefuls – Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock weren’t the only ones…

  • JadedFan

    Yeah, nice story that the media can chew on.

    But republicans will pick up 9-12 seats, then a senator or two like Manchin, seeing the writing on the wall, will switch parties.

    Every indicator from polling (worst for democrats in a generation, worse than 2010 at this point) Obama (best indicator of what will happen in midterms historically) and on and on make this a laugher not a tight outcome.

    I do not think that we will have to wait until the polls close on the West coast on November 2nd to know that the gavel will be passed to the republicans in decisive fashion.

  • RightWingFoamControl

    luckily they cant gerrymander senate races!

  • Bergey66

    Nor will they have the White House … now or anytime in the next 20 years or so.

  • ID-2

    I can see this heading into a run-off but if it does all the variables are against Landrieu. She loses either way.

  • notthemobnazietc

    Just so we get rid of Harry Reid!

  • mb5599

    nuclear option, baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • GorgonPolus577

    If the Republicans win the majority in the Senate then after the election I predict that the first order of business for the Senate will be to pass the Ryan budget which will repeal the ACA, cut 700 billion from Medicare, implement chained CPI cuts to Social Security, block grant program cuts for Medicaid, and include more tax cuts for the richest 1%. The Republicans will then be emboldened to continue to threaten to shut down the government and default on the national debt to force President Obama and congressional Democrats to pass the Ryan Budget.

    Take note red state voters! Vote Democrat in 2014 to prevent the Republicans from taking the Senate and cutting your families health care and unemployment and your parents and your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to give more tax cuts to the richest 1%!!

  • phillyfanatic

    Look any voter putting another or the same Dem back in office in Nov. is simply not thinking. Why would Americans reward any of these liberal Dems as they all, all, all have propped up our LIar in Chief, our Socialist in Chief on every one of his policies;all now 9 scandals. From Mary to Mi.,from Colo. to Mn, voters should eliminate each and every Senator like Mary, Franken, Peters et al.

  • bluestatehostage

    What color are the skies in your world?

  • bluestatehostage

    God I hope you’re right about all of this.

  • rene591

    anyone voting for any incumbent needs to look up the definition of insanity

  • madskills

    Why would anyone put a Republican who will looking to go to war anywhere in the world, who wants to turn the country into a theocracy with the Pope and Catholics in charge, who wants to make women slaves. The list goes on.

  • Gino Schafer

    This article assumes the elections will be close. Don’t count on it. The democrats are going to be washed away in a tidal wave. America has seen 0bama’s socialism, and want no part of it.

  • GorgonPolus577

    Hear that conservative Republican red state senior citizens! bluestatehostage confirms that Republicans are plotting to cut your Social Security and Medicare benefits so they can give more tax cuts to the richest 1%.

  • Drumwaster

    That wasn’t a budget, as required by the Constitution. (You DO remember the Constitution, right? The one that we used to call the Law of the Land? See Article I, Section 9.) Continuing Resolutions are not a budget. Spending authorization bills, even the “omnibus” kind, are not budgets. They are stopgap measures, usually used to fill the gaps between the end of the fiscal year and the passing of the real budget.

    Budgets are a formal process, and the last one that Obama actually submitted (2013) went down in defeat in the Senate 97-0. Not even Dingy Harry voted for it. The one before that (2012) not only lost 99-0 in the Senate, it lost in the House 416-0. Not one single Democrat actually voted for Obama’s budget in that election year.

    If you want to suck up to that dirty old man running the Senate so badly, just do it. You don’t have to also expose your ignorance in the process.

  • AnybodRecognizeMyCountryLately

    ready for the abused child, single mom, gay minority President?

  • cleo48

    Thanks for the review of the DNC pamphlet, but most of us know it chapter and wrote.

  • Drumwaster

    Hey, under Harry’s new rules, he only needs those 51 to shut down any opposition. Those are the new rules, and I expect to see you cheering him on when he does it, just like you are cheering on Harry.

    Precedents are fun. I expect to see Operation Choke Point to shut down abortion clinics and ACORN with the new President, and I will laugh like a little girl when you go apesh*t over such tactics.

  • Gl Remote

    If the GOP gets the Senate, will we then be able to see the IRS emails?

  • Sharon Tomalavage

    Where have you been? Thanks to Dingy Harry Reid, we now have the nuclear option–it only takes 51 Votes!!

  • Sharon Tomalavage

    Excuse me but Rand Paul and his father Ron, were always in the leave the rest of the world alone, camp. As for the theocracy you speak of, sorry but as a Civilized Nation, we shouldn’t be assisting anyone in killing innocent babies, or perhaps you think we should?? Roe v Wade was the most disastrous law ever as it took the views and voting away from the people, and put it where it did NOT belong-with 9 appointed justices!! I said it before and I will again, Justice Scalia and Ginsburg both had it right-this belongs in EACH STATE where the people should vote DIRECTLY on how far they want to go in protecting innocent life. Not the FEDS and certainly NOT UNELECTED JUDGES!! I truly am surprised that for as much as you democrats whine about something that is blatantly UNTRUE, you guys actually BROUGHT THE GOVERNMENT INTO WHAT YOU SAY IS A MOST PRIVATE DECISION.

  • Sharon Tomalavage

    I truly pray that you are right JadedFan, but I think it will probably be closer to 7 or 8 seats. But again, I am praying that you are closer. The most important change is that Harry Reid will no longer have the power to make a mess because of his hypocritical, Marxist views. (To think, at one time he started out as a Pro-life, small government candidate) but this is what power does–changes most people and I regret, NOT for the better.

  • Paul

    Landrieu is most likely gone. If I had to put money on which of the 3 Southern Dems manages to hang on, it would be Pryor. Tom Cotton, at least economically, is a little too far to the right for socially conservative, but populist Arkansas. I would even say that as of today, Hagan has a better chance than Landrieu. I say GOP +5-8 seats.

  • Ronald W. Mann

    Put up your race card its not going to save the worthless dim sheeple shoving each other off the cliff this time

  • Aaron_Burr

    Good catch on Manchin. Right now he’s to the right of some RINOs and he could easily flip or at least move independent and caucus with the Republicans. Oddly enough, if she manages to win re-election, I could see Kay Hagan doing the same thing.

  • madskills

    There was a reason Catholics were considered traitors in 1776. Church over state. Nobody wants your Catholics ideas as the foundation of this society. Move to another 1st rate Catholic Country… Wait, there aren’t any because they wreck societies. Go to war to kill millions but an abortion…. stop the presses. We got 6 Catholics on SCOTUS and they are ruining the country… All the founders are rolling in their graves. Declaration of Independence 55 Protestants, 1 Catholic. Carroll wasn’t allowed to vote on it because he wasn’t trusted. Learn history.


    Man what a asinine and downright stupid comment. You have a warped view of what a republican/conservative really stands for .

    Uninformed liberals are a special breed of stupid.

  • View From The Left

    Ugh. Another know-nothing Tea Bagger with no clue about what she’s talking about!
    hey Sharon, reading comprehension is certainly not your strong suit because the “nuclear option” that Harry invoked only applies to Judicial nominees, not to legislation! Duh!!
    Do us all a favor and stop posting until you either learn more about politics or graduate from 4th grade, whichever comes sooner!

  • View From The Left

    (1) Nuclear option was only used on judicial nominees, not legislation
    (2) McConnell has already said he won’t use the nuclear option for legislation
    (3) President Obama can still veto any legislation that’s passed, even if the 51 vote nuclear option is used, and the Senate won’t be able to get the 2/3 necessary to override.

  • View From The Left

    What color are the voters in your’s?

  • Sharon Tomalavage

    When you Hate, you really do !! Let’s get a few facts straight- there were all faith and atheists who believed in war (WWl, WWII, Vietnam -I do believe that Eisenhower was NO Catholic, Neither was LBJ). Before you make yourself look foolish in print, you might want to do a little RESEARCH first!!

  • Sharon Tomalavage

    Ah, you might want to go back and learn to COMPREHEND what YOU read. I was RESPONDING to an earlier blog that mentioned we have to go back to 60 votes for Every Measure. No we do NOT, after Dingy Harry (of years of whining about NOT instituting the Nuclear Option, turns around and then DOES it-being the good old hypocrite he is. I answered with at least now WE can do the same with appointees and such without the need for a 60 majority-just a simple majority will do. I know numbers for you left wing nuts are down, but don’t take it out on me. The people have just had enough of “Do As We Say, Not As We Do”, hypocrisy!,

  • madskills

    You’re just another religious nut job. You forgot the crusades … there are a reason people are leaving religion, it’s run my a bunch of witch doctors…. give me your money and support and I’ll make sure in another life you got it really good….

  • Sharon Tomalavage

    Sir, I know what went on during the Crusades when you had Popes taking money from the rich by saying they can ‘buy their way to heaven”. But where did you READ that in the bible? Nowhere sir, because it is NOT spoken by God, Jesus, John The Baptist, etc. My point in giving you this little history and biblical lesson is to inform you that since the Beginning, Charlatans have used God/Jesus for their own purposes, but it in no way diminishes the Perfection of our Creator and what he stood for!! In Every organized religion you will find Imperfection because Man is IMPERFECT–Again, God is Not!! EVERY LIFE (in the womb or out), no matter one’s color, creed. or background, is LOVED and VALUED by HIM because he CREATED EVERY LIFE FORM. Can you Now hear the truth, or are you still as deaf and blind as those who Wouldn’ t hear what Jesus had to say??

  • madskills

    Hate to tell you but Jesus was a nut job running around like someone in NY carrying a sign saying, that my father is coming. Get real. You have so much fear… good luck with that…

  • View From The Left

    that’s what you said about President Obama and look at just how wrong you were!

  • View From The Left

    that would be better than any of the GOP clowns running for office, you’re just too stupid to realize it.

  • View From The Left

    and for what race has he announced?
    Oh that’s right, NONE!

  • Ronald W. Mann

    I was wrong about the dim party now pretty much destroyed and lying at the bottom of the cliff, led there by the Incompetent in Chief, surely even you cant be proud of voting for the total failure and the destruction of the country he has imposed

  • Steve

    Within the context of this article, number of seats for each party in the Senate, Republicans are defending the Mississippi seat no matter who wins the Republican run-off. It’s currently a Republican seat.

  • mike_s

    He’s the former freaking governor of Montana, bro, and is considered to be a potential presidential candidate.
    But maybe Hillary “I never met a pedophile I won’t defend especially if it involves smearing a 12 year old victim” Clinton is more your style?

  • Jon Kahr

    Since prices serve as communications beacons, central government attempts to set prices distort the signals upon which prosperity depends.

  • Payton Manning

    Just as collectivism claims that society somehow magically exists apart from those who comprise it, collectivism also claims that society’s knowledge magically exists apart from those who know it.

  • View From The Left

    He still hasn’t announced that he’s running, you mindless dope!
    And Hillary was ASSIGNED the case, jackass, if she hadn’t done her best to get the accused off she could have had her bar license taken away! Maybe you prefer “guilty until proven innocent”, comrade?!
    Move along now, you ignorant peasant, you’ve been schooled!

  • Eli Odell Jackson

    Don’t get to counting your chickens bud, don’t tempt God, but if He be willing, we shall succeed.

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