The good times are about to roll again down on the Louisiana bayou. The good old boys gathered Monday to present a solid front against Mary Landrieu and her fading "clout." Gallantry be damned. The only "big hand for the little lady" is the hand showing her to the door.
The stars of Louisiana politics rallied in Baton Rouge, burying hatchets and old jealousies and grievances, pretending to love one another. But pretense is enough. Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel who ran a respectable third as the Tea Party candidate, showed up to endorse Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican challenger. So did Gov. Bobby Jindal; the state's other senator, David Vitter, and a clutch of down-ballot candidates and former office-holders.
The colonel's 14 percent of the vote would be enough to push Mr. Cassidy over the top with votes to spare, and he seemed to make a point in his election-night concession speech of withholding an endorsement of Mr. Cassidy. He never spoke his name.
But the two men took their wives as wing men on what the newspapers called "their double date" three days after election day and by all accounts both men were on their best behavior, and afterward said everything was all patched up. "Bill even helped me put a new bumper sticker on our truck," the colonel said afterward. They appeared to know about machinery, and got the sticker on straight.
Then it was on to the real business at hand. Neither of the seats for Louisiana or Alaska are crucial to the arithmetic of the Republican takeover - sending Harry Reid to a cold shower is a done deal - but by defeating Mzz Landrieu and Mark Begich the Republicans would get pick-ups No. 8 and No. 9. Dan Sullivan, the Republican challenger, is leading in Alaska, his victory delayed by counting the votes in the backwoods, which in Alaska are well and truly deep in the back.
Mzz Landrieu led the field in what everyone calls "the jungle primary," where everyone with the yen and a filing fee (in U.S. dollars) can scratch their itch, with the two top candidates facing off on Dec. 6. But she's the underdog despite clout, family cred and old-enough money, and she's treated that way.
"It's now clear that Sen. Mary Landrieu's relentless talk about her clout took a big hit in Tuesday's election," political correspondent Robert Mann wrote in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "Not only has much of her power vanished along with the Democrats' Senate majority; her message about what she had done for Louisiana did not resonate with voters." Louisiana voters, no doubt ungrateful, ask not only "what have you done for me lately," but Mzz Landrieu must find a way to answer the question of what can she do for Louisiana now that she would be sitting in the back of the room, bereft of power, relevance and consequence.
Mzz Landrieu is so far sticking to the clout message, working or not. Her first attack ad in the run-off campaign includes video footage of Mr. Cassidy, living up to the reputation of an intelligent man charisma-challenged, struggling through a speech to a Republican leadership conference last spring. As he stumbles on a word or two the narrator of commercial asks, affecting incredulity, "We'd lose Mary Landrieu's clout . . . for this?"
What everyone understands, however, is that after Nov. 4 the senator has no clout. Like Harry Reid, she would only shoot blanks in the new Congress. She damaged herself badly four days before the jungle primary when she told NBC News - with a remark far more damaging than Bill Cassidy's halting speeches - that she's having to fight for her seat only because white folks in Louisiana don't much like women and dark-skinned folks. Mzz Landrieu is running for a fourth term, she looks like a white lady, and the governor in the Cassidy corner is a man of darker hue. So what is the white lady talking about?
Woody Jenkins, the man she defeated to take her seat 18 years ago, is working this time to exact revenge through Bill Cassidy. Many in Louisiana think he was counted out when a hundred thousand votes from Orleans Parish appeared in the late counting just when Mr. Jenkins seemed be winning. "Why blame us for those late returns," a Democratic operative said. "How could we know how many votes it would take until everybody else's votes were in?"
Many things have changed since, but this is still Louisiana. Fraud and football are the state sports.