Washington Prowler

Landrieu in Trouble

Louisiana's vulnerable Democract isn't attracting the black support she needs. Plus: Senator Schwarzenegger? Also: Jon Corzine's shot.

By 11.11.02

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CONTRARY TOWARD MARY
Some of the issues that doomed the candidacy of Democratic Senate candidate Erskine Bowles appear to be clouding Sen. Mary Landrieu's runoff in Louisiana.

Bowles failed to make peace with prominent black Democratic leader Dan Blue after beating him in the primary, and paid for it by getting a lukewarm endorsement and poor black turnout. Now, Landrieu is looking at the same kind of mess down on the bayou. Democratic state senators Don Cravins, Cleo Fields and Greg Tarver announced that they will not work on behalf of Landrieu because she has not been supportive of black issues.

Tarver told local reporters in Shreveport that "I'm not going to campaign against her. I'm going to serve her like she has served my people."

Fields has a political grudge against Landrieu, who chose not to support his bid for governor last time around.

Landrieu garned 46 percent of the vote on November 5 general and faces the top Republican vote getter, Suzanne Terrell. That wide margin between Landrieu and Terrell actually isn't that wide. Combined, Republicans in the five way open race totaled 51 percent of the vote. And in 1996, when Landrieu almost lost to Republicans Woody Jenkins, more than 50 percent of her support came from black voters.

"We don't buy for a minute that when push comes to shove the African-American community won't come out and vote for Landrieu," says an RNC staffer already operating in Louisiana. "But we're certainly going to give them every opportunity to look at their other option."

Landrieu isn't without black support. Just as Cravins, Fields and Tarver were making their announcement, another state senator, Kip Holden, was announcing he would fully support Landrieu and work for her to get out the black vote. While Holden's support is appreciated, Fields, Tarver and Cravins are among the most influential black politicians in the state. If Landrieu is to have a real shot at winning, she needs their support as well.

TERMINATOR LIMITS
California Republicans don't want movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger to wait till 2006 to run for office. They want him to make his political screen test earlier. And given the dismal performance of rookie Bill Simon, some Republicans would prefer to see the Austrian Oak show his political mettle -- and true colors -- too, before seeking the highest in-state office. So some GOPers are pushing Schwarzenegger advisers to run their boy against Barbara Boxer in 2004 for the U.S. Senate.

Besides providing a look at how the action star would hold up under the political spotlight, it would also resolve a bigger problem: the GOP currently has no one of any stature to run against the ultra-liberal Northern Californian. The only viable candidate who could challenge Boxer -- and win -- is Rep. Chris Cox, but it's expected that he will have either a higher profile in the GOP House leadership or a prime committee assignment, and won't be interested in surrendering either for a junior Senate seat.

"It just show how poorly run this party is out here that we can't muster anyone for that campaign," says a Republican fundraiser. "The race started this week, and we have no one to put up. We've essentially surrendered it."

How bad have things gotten? One Republican Party source says that if the White House can't come up with a suitable candidate, the state party might turn to former congressman Jack Kemp. "Now you know we're desperate," says the fundraiser.

A SHOT OF CORZINE
Look for New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine to take over the chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee come December. Corzine, who won election in New Jersey in 2000 by financing much of his race with his own money, will be expected to recruit future Democratic candidates who fit his mold.

"With the soft money bans, we aren't going to have the kind of money we had," says a DSCC staffer. "Much more than Republicans, we're going to have to find wealthy individuals willing to spend their own money to serve."

While Corzine can probably identify those types of candidates, and will probably be able to advise many on how to jumpstart campaigns, some inside the Democratic caucus wonder if Corzine is up to the task. "He's still a bit of an unknown," says the staffer. "We can't afford another election cycle like this one. Daschle and McAuliffe better know what they are doing."

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