Today is Qualifying Day in Louisiana, and embattled incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu and her presumptive challenger Republican Bill Cassidy both hit the ground running. Landrieu's chief pitch to the voters of Louisiana seems to be that she has a lot of seniority that they should not throw away; Cassidy took the opportunity to point out that Landrieu's seniority thus far has not gotten the State of Louisiana squat:
"It's Louisiana's clout. Let's not give it up. It took us a long time to get to this point," the three-term senator from New Orleans said, repeating the central theme of her campaign.
Cassidy, a Baton Rouge doctor, called his effort crucial to returning the U.S. Senate to GOP control, which he said more closely represents Louisiana's views.
He repeatedly linked Landrieu to President Barack Obama, who is highly unpopular in Louisiana. Cassidy also took a shot at Landrieu's seniority, saying that hasn't helped advance the Keystone XL pipeline, which Landrieu and Cassidy both support.
"You can speak of clout, but frankly, you should ask: Why haven't you been effective?" Cassidy said after registering for the election at the Secretary of State's Office.
Landrieu's main political liability, however, apart from being a rubber stamp for the wildly unpopular Obama, is her involvement in a travel reimbursement scandal. Cassidy and others discovered earlier this month that Landrieu had been illegally using a private jet that was billed to her Senate office to fly to campaign fundraisers, a clear abuse of power and waste of taxpayer money.
A review of Landrieu’s office expenditures and campaign records reveals two trips from 2012 that may have been improperly billed to her Senate office rather than her reelection campaign.
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Both trips included campaign-related events that raise questions about whether some or all of the costs of the charter flights should have been covered by Landrieu’s reelection campaign, rather than her official office.
The trips are becoming a serious headache for Landrieu, who is in the fight of her political life this year against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). After other reports of improper travel spending, Louisiana Republicans are dubbing Landrieu “Air Mary” to portray her as out of touch with voters after her lengthy Senate career.
Anyone who has been to Louisiana can tell you how absurd it is to fly from, say, Shreveport to Alexandria (approx 120 miles over a deserted Interstate) at all much less on a private jet, but this shows how out of touch Mary Landrieu has become from the voters of her state. Landrieu claims that the travel expenses were the result of a "bookkeeping error" which suspiciously was only discovered when it became a political issue for her, but the issue (along with the inability to ride Obama's coattails) may finally doom Landrieu, as the "Air Mary" protesters were out in force to greet her on her qualifying day.