Senate race now deemed a tossup

The re-election bid of Sen. Mary Landrieu started to look better last year during the partial government shutdown, but political pundits now have the race squarely considered a tossup again.

Prominent University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato had been scoring the race as “Leans Democratic” on his Sabato’s Crystal Ball website in the wake of the shutdown. But he switched it to a “Toss Up” on Thursday with U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, as the strongest challenger.

Also running in the 2014 Senate race are state Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville; Republican and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, of Madisonville; and Libertarian Brannon McMorris, of Denham Springs.

The three toss-up ratings are for the reelection bids of incumbent Senate Democrats: Landrieu, of Louisiana, Kay Hagan, of North Carolina, and Mark Begich, of Alaska, according to Sabato.

He is the widely published and often-quoted professor of politics at the University of Virginia. His latest book is “The Kennedy Half-Century.”

In late October, Sabato had stronger for Landrieu’s “more favorable situation.”

“Not only has the national Republican brand suffered, but Rep. Bill Cassidy (R), her likely opponent, has not impressed with his fundraising,” Sabato stated at the time.

But those sentiments have shifted somewhat.

“We’re not going to underestimate Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who has won three tough races and who benefits from a sterling political name, but ‘Toss Up’ is the more realistic rating here than ‘Leans Democratic,’ ” Sabato stated. “Despite some problems on his right flank, it’d be shocking if Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) didn’t advance to a possible runoff, and such a runoff — which could decide the Senate depending on what happened elsewhere in the country — would be a nationally watched December electoral overtime.”

Sabato goes on to explain that Democrats would have reason to worry about turnout problems in a runoff.

Still, the GOP base still is not united behind Cassidy.

Former state lawmaker Tony Perkins, who spends most of his time in Washington, D.C., as the president of the Family Research Council, was critical of Cassidy on Wednesday when interviewed by The Hill, a trade publication covering Congress.

Perkins, a Republican, has not ruled out entering the race, but he also is considering running for the 6th Congressional District seat that Cassidy is vacating.

“I think his (Cassidy’s) problem is his record,” Perkins told The Hill. “He’s been pretty weak on the issues. If the Republicans want to win, they actually need to find a stronger candidate.”

But when The Hill asked whether a stronger candidate had emerged in the race, Perkins said “not that has come to the forefront yet.” And pressed on whether that candidate could be him, Perkins said only “not at this time.”

“I would rather somebody else do it,” he added.