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Mary Landrieu Wrestles An (Obamacare) Alligator

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is facing a tough re-election bid.
J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is facing a tough re-election bid.

In any conversation about vulnerable Senate Democrats, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana rises straight to the top of the list.

It's bad enough for the three-term senator that she must run for re-election next year in a state as red as boiled crawfish, where President Obama got just 40.6 percent of the vote — and the best she's been able to do is 52 percent.

Her support for the Affordable Care Act has only made matters worse. The HealthCare.gov snafu and insurance policy cancellations have contributed to a drop in her poll numbers and given Republicans plenty of fodder.

The law's troubles even prompted an anti-Landrieu National Republican Senatorial Committee ad inspired by the famous 1984 Ronald Reagan bear-in-the-woods-equals-Soviet Union ad. The NRSC ad has a Louisiana swamp twist: a scary alligator paddling through dark water equals Obamacare.

How does Landrieu wrestle that particular reptile? Partly with her own ad in which she seems to take outsize credit for Obama's belated decision to let people keep insurance policies for next year that would otherwise have to be canceled for failing to meet the ACA's minimum requirements.

Landrieu's ad links her introduction of legislation to let people keep their policies to the president's decision. It uses a news bite of her: "I'm fixing it. And that's what my bill does. And I've urged the president to fix it." Near the ad's end the words "The Result" appear on-screen with a newspaper headline: "People now allowed to keep health care plans."

The Obama administration, of course, was pressured from all directions, and Landrieu was just one of many Democrats who urged the president to act.

As scientists are found of saying, correlation isn't causation. But from her campaign's perspective, Landrieu has to do something to try to flip the GOP's Obamacare script and improve her chances at a fourth term.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Frank James
Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.