BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — In the still-unfolding Louisiana Senate race, when Republican Bill Cassidy wants to hurt Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s standing, he suggests that a vote for her is a vote for unpopular President Barack Obama.
Democrats have their supposed bad guy too: When they want to hurt Cassidy, they link him to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Like Obama’s nationally, Jindal’s approval ratings in Louisiana have dipped into the 40s. And Jindal’s stock is falling just as he’s considering a bid for the presidency in 2016.
He’s angered state workers with layoffs, health care changes and attempts to lessen retirement benefits. His education policies have miffed public school teachers. And his patchwork approach to balancing the state’s budget has put Jindal at odds with conservative Republicans as well as Democrats. Repeated cuts have hit public colleges and health care services. And Jindal’s frequent out-of-state travel has soured some support for the governor.
Jindal, who is term-limited and can’t run for re-election next year, dismissed his low popularity as the cost of bold leadership.
“I was elected to do big, generational reforms in my state,” Jindal said when asked about his low approval ratings, at the Republican Governors Association conference in Florida last week. “We have enough politicians that try to be celebrities and kiss babies and cut ribbons. It’s easy if you want to avoid rocking the boat.”
Cassidy has given Jindal high marks, saying the governor’s “taken some tough licks.”
But he didn’t get Jindal’s endorsement before the Nov. 4 election. The governor was traveling the nation to support other GOP candidates. In Louisiana, no one won a majority in the all-parties primary so the winner will be decided in a Dec. 6 runoff between the top two vote-getters, Cassidy and Landrieu.
Jindal finally endorsed Cassidy when he was the remaining Republican in the race. “I think Bill is more in tune with the values of Louisiana,” the governor said.
Cassidy, a third-term congressman, called Jindal’s backing “fantastic” but immediately added that he has endorsements from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Jindal has shown up rarely at public campaign events for Cassidy since the endorsement, and only when those events featured higher-profile Republicans from other states, like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Democrats would like to see Jindal on the Louisiana campaign trail much more.
“If Bill Cassidy’s smart, he’ll ask Bobby Jindal to stay home,” said Ted James, a Democratic state lawmaker from Baton Rouge and Landrieu supporter. He said it might have helped Landrieu if the governor had come out for Cassidy months ago.
Even though Cassidy and Jindal rarely appear together, Landrieu and her allies regularly pair the two together in their rhetoric.
“If you like what Gov. Jindal’s done to rob trust funds, if you like what Gov. Jindal’s done to play a shell game with the budget, just wait ’til you see what Bill Cassidy might do in the United States Senate,” Landrieu told supporters at a recent campaign stop. “They belong together. They deserve each other.”
Joshua Stockley, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, thinks that link is tougher to sell, however, than the one Republicans draw between Obama and Landrieu. The president and Louisiana’s Democratic senator both deal with federal legislation, while Cassidy and Jindal don’t overlap on the policy areas they help decide.
And the Democrats’ strategy may be too late to help Landrieu, Stockley said. “I think there’s some potential there to peel away some moderate or independent support for Rep. Cassidy, but not enough at this point to make a difference.”
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report from Boca Raton, Florida.
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