Welcome to this week’s way, way, ridiculously-too-early look ahead at elections.
What’s that? Elections in November aren’t that far away?
Oh, poppycock, we’re looking ahead to 2014 and the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
That’s right, we’re not even sure who’s running against Landrieu yet but the political shuffling and fundraising certainly already has begun.
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, raised eyebrows in February when he brought on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief political strategist, Timmy Teepell, to help with his 2012 re-election campaign.
That clearly got people talking about a likely Cassidy challenge against Landrieu in 2014 because Cassidy does not have any opposition yet in 2012 and he is unlikely to have any well-financed person run against him.
Then, this past week, new fundraising numbers came out showing Cassidy slightly outpacing Landrieu in raising dollars, even though the 2014 election is more than two years away.
“The thing is, you can never start preparing for a statewide race too early,” said Kirby Goidel, political analyst and director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab.
Goidel said he is “completely convinced” a big campaign war chest is intimidating to other Republicans thinking of taking on Landrieu.
“I think there’ll be a lot of people at least thinking about it,” Goidel said. “We’ve got a whole lot of Republican House members.”
Cassidy already has $1.64 million in cash on hand. His contributions are 62 percent from individuals and 37 percent from political action committees, as of the end of March, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Landrieu reports $1.2 million in cash on hand, and about 64 percent of her contributions are from individual donations.
Cassidy raised about $210,000 in the first quarter of 2012, compared to Landrieu’s $195,000.
Four years ago, Landrieu came close to doubling the total fundraising of her rival, state Treasurer John Kennedy. She spent more than $9 million on the campaign.
But Jane Campbell, Landrieu’s chief of staff, noted that Landrieu has more dollars saved up now than she did at this point six years ago. Cassidy also will have to spend money this year for his re-election, she said.
“Sen. Landrieu is convinced she’ll be able to meet him on the fundraising field but, more importantly, she’ll be able to meet him on the field of having solid accomplishments for the people of Louisiana,” Campbell said.
For his part, the Cassidy camp is only saying he’s running for re-election and not taking this year’s election for granted.
Goidel said 2014 will be a very competitive election no matter who turns out to be Landrieu’s chief competition, especially as Louisiana veers more and more conservative.
“But she’s a proven fighter and has won some tough elections,” Goidel said. “You can never count out Mary Landrieu. She’s tough.”
As for Cassidy, Goidel called him “sort of untested” thus far.
Cassidy was first elected to Congress in 2008 when he defeated short-term, Democratic incumbent Don Cazayoux with relative ease largely because former state Rep. Michael Jackson of Baton Rouge siphoned off votes from Cazayoux. Jackson switched from Democrat to “No Party” candidate and jumped into the race, which splintered the Democratic vote.
Then, Cassidy was barely challenged in 2010 and the same situation seems likely so far this year.
A physician by trade, Cassidy proved himself out of the gate in 2006 though when, as a political newcomer, he easily beat three-term state Rep. William Daniel for election into the Louisiana Senate in a race that became increasingly negative.
But one possible wild card that could knock Cassidy down is if Jindal eyes Landrieu’s Senate seat.
Jindal is only 40 years old and already term-limited as governor and he may not want to retire from politics, even if he does end up collecting a state retirement.
It could make some political sense for Jindal to look at the Senate, Goidel said, but he is better off finishing his term as governor if he wants to make a run for the White House in 2016.
“I would be surprised if he ran (for the Senate),” Goidel said, “but not shocked.”
Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org