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Senate Republicans expanded their majority in the upcoming Congress on Saturday when Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy defeated Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in a runoff election.
The Associated Press called the race for Cassidy, who enjoyed substantial help from outside groups determined to knock off another Democratic incumbent senator this election cycle.
Democrats, however, had largely given up on Landrieu once it became clear they no longer would retain control of the Senate. After the November 4 primary, liberal groups aired just 100 television ads in support of the three-term senator, whereas conservative groups aired 6,000, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Cassidy stuck to the GOP’s successful strategy of tying Landrieu with President Barack Obama in a state Obama lost by 17 points in his 2012 re-election. He repeatedly said she voted with the president 97 percent of the time and painted her as the “deciding” vote for the Affordable Care Act.
Exit polls from the primary showed troubling signs for Landrieu, even though she won a plurality of the vote running against Cassidy and another Republican. She earned the support of just 18 percent of white voters, significantly less than the 33 percent she got during her 2008 election.
The daughter of former New Orleans mayor and the sister of the current one has come out on top of tough races before, but this election she struggled to define herself as an independent-minded Democrat.
Her message during the runoff election was that Senate control has already been decided and voters must now choose who is best for the Pelican State. Landrieu told supporters that replacing her with Cassidy is like replacing popular New Orlean Saints quarterback Drew Brees with a rookie.
But her veteran leadership was not enough to pass the Keystone XL pipeline last month when the bill failed to get Senate approval by one vote.
“I came here 18 years ago, fighting to get here, fighting to stay here, and I’m going to fight for the people of my state until the day that I leave — I hope that will not be soon,” a defeated Landrieu said after the vote. “There’s only joy in the fight. Where I come from, we just never talk about quitting, and we don’t talk about whining.”
Landrieu’s loss means Southern states no longer have a Democrat representing them in the Senate, a remarkable shift in a region the party used to firmly control.