BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's Senate race was in all likelihood heading to a runoff. Need proof? Just look at the major political groups' media plans.
Senate Republicans' campaign arm has booked a pittance in air time — roughly $10,000 — in October. That all changes after voters cast ballots on Nov. 4.
If no candidate captures a majority of votes, the top two hopefuls advance to a head-to-head contest to be settled in a Dec. 6 runoff. In preparation, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has asked broadcast stations and cable providers to set aside $2.8 million in air time for the overtime race against endangered Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.
A conservative business coalition, the Charles and David Koch-backed Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, has also booked another $1.8 million to help the extra-innings campaign against Landrieu.
Democrats, too, are rushing into Louisiana. Weeks ago, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had not booked advertising time after Election Day but recently has added $1.8 million in air time. The DSCC now is planning to spend more after Nov. 4 than it did before.
Those sums were included in advertising documents obtained by The Associated Press. Of course, they can still be modified, but they offer a clear sense that the partisans are eyeing Louisiana as a potential last stand in the battle for control of the Senate during President Barack Obama's final two years in office. And they're prepared to spend every dime in their pockets, potentially borrowing even more.
Landrieu is a target for national Republicans driving to gain six seats they need to capture the Senate majority. She is the only Democratic statewide elected official in Louisiana, a state that strongly supported Mitt Romney in 2012.
The two leading Republicans faced by the incumbent senator faces are Rep. Bill Cassidy and tea party favorite Rob Maness. Most observers expect Landrieu and Cassidy to face each other in a head-to-head contest on Dec. 6, even though Landrieu's campaign continues to insist she can still win outright next week.
More than $24 million in TV advertising already has aired in the state with a week to go before Election Day, according to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, which is tracking ad spending across the country.
National conservative group Crossroads GPS, co-founded by GOP operative Karl Rove, aired a new ad Tuesday, hitting Landrieu for her vote for President Barack Obama's signature health care law. The 30-second TV commercial said the Democratic incumbent's vote was a betrayal of Louisiana, a continuing theme of GOP advertising that has framed Landrieu as a rubber stamp for the president.
Despite the negative ads, Landrieu continued to embrace the health overhaul as recently as a Monday night debate in which she said while it needs adjustments, "I will fight for it." Both Cassidy and Maness are campaigning on repeal of the law.
But the law passed in 2010 isn't a winning issue for Landrieu in her home state.
A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released this week shows that more than 6 in 10 Louisiana voters surveyed believe the federal health law is "generally bad" for the state.
Elliott reported from Washington.