Washington Watch: U.S. Senate ads quack

Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum
Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum

The premiere of the overwhelmingly popular, West Monroe-based “Duck Dynasty” television show came last week and brought with it a new attack on Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee funded a commercial during the show that looked like the iconic 1985 Nintendo video game “Duck Hunt” to target Landrieu for alleged misfires on energy, taxes, jobs and, of course, “Obamacare.”

The ad was cleverly designed, even if it failed to feature any clever new criticisms of the state’s senior senator. The commercial also was a relatively small media buy that was only shown in the New Orleans market. But it helped to unofficially kick the Senate campaign into a higher gear for an election that is still more than a year away. After all, the 2014 Senate race in Louisiana is expected to end up as the most expensive election in the state’s history.

As such, the Landrieu campaign took the attack seriously and launched a response to attempt to debunk the criticisms and to highlight her accomplishments for Louisiana.

“This ad is a total quack,” said Landrieu’s campaign manager, Adam Sullivan, in a “fact check” release. “It is a desperate, misleading attempt by the NRSC, which hopes it will help them duck the fact that Mary Landrieu has spent her entire time in the Senate fighting and winning for Louisiana.”

The “fact check” then goes on to note that it was Landrieu’s legislation that increased revenue sharing for Louisiana from offshore oil-and-gas drilling production and that she has voted for tax cuts in the past.

Then, on Friday, Landrieu criticized newly proposed legislation by some of her Democratic Senate colleagues to fund port improvements nationwide on a new fee, or tax, on industry. “… the oil and gas companies that support 9 million good-paying jobs in this country are not ATMs for Congress to run to every time there is a need for additional revenue,” she stated.

On the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Landrieu isn’t running away, but she isn’t going out of her way to highlight the issue either.

During a Rotary Club of Baton Rouge luncheon address last week, she focused on discussing the economy and never brought up health care.

But she did discuss the topic afterwards when asked by reporters. She directed her criticism at state government for not building the health care exchanges, which the federal government is supposed to have online for Oct. 1. She said the state is “only hurting itself.”

“Louisiana may be slow but it will eventually get there,” she said.

Landrieu also has repeatedly criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal for refusing the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion that could insure up to about 400,000 additional Louisianians.

But, in an effort that may show what Landrieu can expect soon, the NRSC this past week also launched a billboard attack against Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. The seven billboards throughout North Carolina list four accomplishments for Hagan — the first three are question marks and the fourth is “Obamacare.”

This being the congressional August recess period, members of Congress are spending a lot of time in their home states fundraising, campaigning and hosting town hall meetings.

Landrieu’s chief opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, had a packed house for a town hall meeting this past week in Metairie in his ongoing effort to expand his personal brand outside of the Baton Rouge region.

Cassidy, in part, touted the election as the potential decider in which party controls the Senate after 2014, but he also leaned heavily on assailing Obamacare as bad for patients and taxpayers, although he is not supporting a government shutdown threat to defund Obamacare. He continued the health care attack in a fundraising email after the town hall.

“We discussed a whole host of issues from Obamacare’s disastrous impacts on small businesses and workers to illegal immigration to bringing more accountability back to Washington,” Cassidy stated.

Still, though, Cassidy is facing attacks from the right. The other candidate in the race, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, of Madisonville, released a new “candidate comparison” chart that uses a bit of exaggeration to paint Cassidy as similar to Landrieu on issues such as spending, Second Amendment rights, health care and even last year’s attacks on the U.S. embassy in Libya — the “Benghazi cover up.”

Maness contends he is the only “constitutional conservative” in the race and that Cassidy is just “Landrieu with an ‘R’ next to his name.”

Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.com.