BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton described U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu as one of the Senate's most bipartisan and effective lawmakers, offering a high-profile campaign boost Monday to the Democratic incumbent ahead of the start of Louisiana's early voting period.
Clinton sought to combat GOP claims that Landrieu was too closely tied to Democratic leadership in Washington and didn't represent her home state's values.
"This is not a close question of who would do the best job. She should be winning this race," Clinton told a packed hotel ballroom of 1,500 attendees.
The three-term senator faces a tough re-election bid, targeted for ouster by Republicans nationally in their effort to regain Senate control. Landrieu's main GOP opponent is U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Landrieu's campaign hopes Clinton's star power and continued popularity help sway undecided voters and bolsters minority turnout in the Nov. 4 election. Early voting begins Tuesday.
Cassidy and Republican leaders repeatedly link Landrieu to President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Louisiana, suggesting a vote to return Landrieu to Washington is like voting for Obama. Landrieu has tried to distance herself from the president, saying the election is about the future of Louisiana.
Cassidy's campaign didn't comment on Clinton's appearance in Baton Rouge, while the Republican National Committee discarded it, saying Landrieu was no longer a "Clinton Democrat."
"Landrieu's rock solid support for President Obama shows that his agenda is her agenda, and Louisiana voters can see through today's misdirection," RNC spokesman Ben Voelkel said in a statement.
Clinton largely steered clear of talk about the Obama administration, instead describing Landrieu's work to get Louisiana a greater share of offshore oil drilling royalties and her chairmanship of the Senate energy committee.
This is Clinton's second visit to Louisiana for Landrieu. He's a popular draw on the campaign trail for vulnerable Democrats across the South, attending events in Arkansas on Sunday and planning a rally in Kentucky on Tuesday.
"I feel like an old race horse, and I'm retired up here in this stable, you know. And all of a sudden at election time, they come and bring me an extra bale of hay and then they put the reins on, take me out to the track, slap me on the rear and see if I can make it around just one more time," he joked.
Louisiana's Senate race is unlikely to be decided in two weeks. If no candidate in the eight-person field gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the race will be settled in a Dec. 6 runoff. Polls show Cassidy with a slight lead in runoff scenarios.