Louisiana congressional Republicans rallying around Cassidy

WASHINGTON – In a sign that the GOP is rallying around Rep. Bill Cassidy as its choice for the 2014 Senate race, all of the Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation are supporting Cassidy at a June fundraiser in Washington.

The Republicans want a one-on-one race between Cassidy and incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

The invitation for June 11 fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington suggests minimum donations of $500 and touts “special guests” in Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman; Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette; John Fleming, R-Minden; and Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson.

Pearson Cross, political science department chairman for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the fundraiser represents an impressive symbol in support of Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge.

“Everybody is all in. I looked at that, and I went, ‘Wow, that’s a strong statement,’ ” Cross said. “This sends a strong message to anyone else thinking of running as a Republican.”

Boustany and Fleming both seriously considered running for the U.S. Senate seat as well, but they ultimately opted to step aside earlier this year. Vitter also has helped clear the path for Cassidy and Vitter’s communications director is now working as Cassidy’s campaign manager.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, who lives in the New Orleans metro area, said Monday he will enter the race. But Maness is a political newcomer with little financial backing at this time.

Others who have considered running have mostly backed out, but state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge, has maintained he is still considering running. Roemer has complained about backroom deal-making to crown Cassidy as the GOP contender.

But Roemer could always instead opt to run for Cassidy’s current congressional seat.

Cross said it would make more sense for Roemer to do the latter, especially because Landrieu and Cassidy have large fundraising leads already.

As of the end of March, Cassidy claimed $2.46 million in cash on hand, while Landrieu had a more robust $3.46 million in the bank.

Cross argued that Cassidy likely will need to outgain Landrieu eventually.

“I think both candidates are going to raise and spend an enormous amount of money,” Cross said, noting that the early GOP consensus of supporting Cassidy will only help him raise more.