A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Landrieu led a Nov. 4 primary that featured eight candidates from all parties on the same ballot, with about a 16,000-vote lead over Cassidy. But her 42 percent is a smaller share than she posted in any of her three previous victories.
Cassidy, meanwhile, hopes to complete a near-GOP sweep of competitive Senate races, giving Republicans a 54-seat majority when Congress convenes in January.
Some key details of Landrieu's plight and Cassidy's advantage:
— November turnout was, unsurprisingly, down compared with 2008, when the presidential race attracted voters across the spectrum and Landrieu posted her career peak of 52.1 percent to defeat Republican John Kennedy without a runoff. But while Landrieu lost a net of 368,901 votes from her 2008 total, Cassidy and Republican Rob Maness, the third-place finisher and a tea party favorite, combined to finish just 61,573 votes behind Kennedy's total. Maness has endorsed Cassidy.
— In every one of Louisiana's 64 parishes, Landrieu lost votes from her 2008 level. While that's not entirely unexpected given lower voter participation in midterm elections, the depth of Landrieu's losses compared with her Republican rivals is notable. She lost at least 5,000 votes in 21 parishes, at least 10,000 in nine parishes, at least 20,000 in four parishes, and 30,000-plus in East Baton Rouge and Jefferson parishes. Her smallest loss in an individual parish was 556 votes in sparsely populated East Carroll Parish, but even that was almost 20 percent of her 2008 total there.
— Cassidy and Maness' combined take, meanwhile, actually increased over Kennedy's in 20 parishes, and the GOP total dropped by more than 5,000 votes in only four parishes.
— Cassidy won 12 parishes that Landrieu won in 2008. As an example, Calcasieu Parish is an oil-and-gas industry hotbed and top recipient of federal aid after Hurricane Rita in 2005, so it fits Landrieu's argument that her seniority matters. In 2008, she led Kennedy there by 4,328 votes; this time, Cassidy and Maness combined for a 14,421-vote advantage.
— Democrats looking for hope sometimes note 2002. In that midterm election, Landrieu trailed the combined vote of three leading Republicans by almost 58,000 votes in the primary, only to win the runoff by 42,012 votes. She increased her primary support by 11 percent, while her Republican opponent lost 5.45 percent of the combined primary total for the top three GOP candidates. That yielded a total swing of 99,699 votes. But Landrieu's first-round deficit this year was 186,207. Even replicating her 2002 increase and Republicans' slip, Landrieu would still lose by almost 72,000 votes.
— Landrieu has gotten more dependent on urban votes as rural and small-town voters have defected. Her problem is that Republicans appear to have improved their vote counts in many urban parishes, making it harder for Landrieu to use her city advantage to close the overall gap. In the eight parishes that contain Louisiana's largest cities, Landrieu got 39,089 more votes on Nov. 4 than she got in her primary 12 years ago. But the Cassidy-Maness share was 30,907 votes more than what the major GOP candidates drew in 2002. For Landrieu, that's net gain of only 8,182 votes — or a mere 4.4 percent of her statewide deficit heading into Dec. 6.
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