Cassidy says policy trumps polls in his U.S. Senate race

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy said Wednesday he worries about policy, not polls, and will let the rest take care of itself in his campaign for election to the U.S. Senate.

Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican who is challenging three-term incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., for her seat in 2014, brushed off the significance of recent polling by Republican-leaning firms showing Cassidy may be in a close race with Landrieu.

“Those polls don’t matter. I’ll just tell you that, and it’s fun to talk about,” Cassidy said in an interview before his appearance Wednesday at a Capital Region Home Builders Association luncheon in Gonzales. “But what actually matters is good public policy.”

Cassidy said he plans to work issues instead, as he heads into the campaign against Landrieu and fellow Republican challenger retired U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Maness, of Madisonville.

“The way I look at it, as long as we work hard on the issues, you have to trust that, at some point, good policy is good politics. The polls will take care of themselves,” he said.

The two recent GOP polls show Landrieu ahead by 4 percentage points in one case while Cassidy is ahead by 2 points in another, though his lead is within that poll’s margin of error.

A separate Democratic-leaning poll suggested Landrieu was ahead of Cassidy by 10 percentage points.

Many analysts view the race, still more than a year away, as probably a tough one for Landrieu and a key election for GOP hopes to regain control of the Senate. The Democrats have a six-seat advantage but two Independents also caucus with the party.

Maness has received some tea party support, but Cassidy, who has sometimes been criticized by conservative groups, dismissed the challenge Maness poses on his right flank.

“I don’t think he’s a big deal. I’m pretty conservative. I don’t feel any pressure at all on my right,” the congressman said.

Cassidy said he sometimes runs afoul of “Washington, D.C., groups” when he sticks up for Louisiana, such as his support for the National Flood Insurance Program, which he said those groups do not like.

“If they want to hit me on that, hit me on that. I vote Louisiana first and D.C. interest groups second,” he said.

Cassidy spoke to the homebuilders at length about changes to the flood insurance program and his and Landrieu’s efforts to delay implementation.

The law, adopted in 2012, would end the practice of grandfathering-in flood insurance rates under the goal of having them reflect actual risk. But the law has prompted opposition from coastal communities as they have gotten hints of the rate increases, a concern for homebuilders in low-lying parishes such as Ascension.

Cassidy, who voted for the House version of the law sponsored by then-Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said the Federal Emergency Management Agency implemented the law in a way to make flood insurance unaffordable.

He said the House passed his amendment to delay implementation by a year so FEMA can take local flood control structures such as levees into account as the law directed, potentially lowering risk assessments and rates. He said Landrieu is proposing the same amendment in the Senate and expects it will pass.

But Cassidy also cautioned it may be harder to stop the law’s new provisions on grandfathering rates.

Later with reporters, Cassidy staked out his position on a push by some Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, to defund President Barack Obama’s signature health-care initiative, the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” through coming budget negotiations. The federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1

Cassidy was asked if he would support a continuing resolution to fund the federal government if it contained funding for “Obamacare.”

Cassidy said he co-sponsored a bill for an up-or-down vote on defunding the health care program but wants to see what a continuing resolution contained before making a decision.

“If funding for ‘Obamacare’ ends up being wrapped in with funding for other things, such as funding for the military, then I have to support things, such as funding for the military,” he said.

Cassidy said he would expect Obama to wrap up everything he could into the continuing resolution that the president wants to get rid of so he can blame it on Republicans.