Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will likely become chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, a position that will play an uncertain role in her reelection campaign.
Landrieu’s seat is in one of three states currently rated as toss-ups in 2014—the other two being North Carolina and Alaska. In order to win reelection in a state Romney carried by 58 percent in 2012, she will need to shift toward the center. Landrieu has already distanced herself from the president, rebuking Obama for failing to keep his promise to the American people on keeping existing health care policies.
Energy is another issue that will be key to Louisiana independent voters, and to her benefit, Landrieu’s record has been solidly consistent with Republicans. Consider her 2008 campaign ad in which she criticized her Republican challenger for opposing a “plan to open 120 million acres for drilling.”
In an interview with the New York Times last Thursday, Landrieu reiterated her eagerness to continue pushing for energy production:
“I’m proud to be from a state with a 100-year-plus tradition of the energy industry”
With her new Senate appointment approaching, she has begun to pressure Obama to approve plans to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline:
“The pipeline has been studied every which way possible from every angle imaginable…It is time to stop studying and start building.”
Her bold move reconfirms her commitment to economic growth and energy independence, all while taking a profitable jab at the unpopular president.
There are, however, those to her left who are aggravated. Politico reports that billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer is “willing to target Democrats who support construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.” Steyer has already established a PAC, NextGen Climate Action, but as of now, the committee is only set to go after one of five national politicians keen on pursuing the pipeline, possibly leaving Landrieu off the hook.
Just how much could this PAC hurt Landrieu? Depicting Landrieu as an anti-environmentalist Democrat may deflect wealthy liberal donors, but standing as the potential deciding factor between a Republican- or Democrat-controlled Senate and as chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, Landrieu will still find plenty of sources for campaign contributions.
On November 4, when most general elections will occur, all candidates for the Louisiana seat will compete in the same “jungle primary.” If no candidate obtains at least 50 percent of the vote, a run-off between the top two will take place in December.
With Louisiana’s status as a toss-up, Landrieu will have to prove herself not only to her base, but to swing voters as well. Predictably, Landrieu will be caught between pandering to middle-of-the-road voters concerned with job growth and wealthy donors wary of her positions on the environment. Democrats be warned: Just as moderate Republicans are facing Tea Party candidates in primaries, vulnerable Democrats have their own problems with internal opposition.