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Sen. Mary Landrieu's defeat could cost Demos the Senate

Sen. Landrieu in deep trouble down South
Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Sen. Mary Landrieu appears to be in an uphill fight for a fourth-term in her home state of Louisiana. Of all the incumbent senators running for re-election, Landrieu appears to be the likeliest to lose. Her seat could determine control of the Senate.

Landrieu’s re-election bid was further jolted this week by public controversy over a private jet scandal and the announcement that her leading opponent now has more money to spend in the campaign. Landrieu cannot gain any political traction this time-around.

Her challenger, GOP candidate and Rep. Bill Cassidy, announced Thursday he has pulled ahead of Landrieu with a stunning $5.6 million cash on hand, according to new FEC filing posted. That compares to Landrieu’s $5.5 million. The news is unheard of in the politics of Louisiana and the value of incumbency.

Cassidy campaign spokesman John Cummins said in a statement Thursday, "We are incredibly excited about the state of our campaign. Dr. Cassidy's message of common-sense conservative reform is resonating. That's why he has proven one of the most prolific fundraisers of this cycle and is the only Senate challenger in the country with more cash on hand than the incumbent."

If Cummins represents the true state of this race in the Deep South, Democrats are in a world of trouble this November. Landrieu campaign communications director Fabien Levy quickly countered the statement by saying the dollar amount was “inflated,” adding, "We have always had the funds necessary to run the campaign we planned and will raise all the money we'll need to get out the message that Mary is fighting for Louisianans in the Senate.”

But Cassidy’s cash surprise was perhaps the final nail in Landrieu’s political coffin during a very bad week. It was reported by CNN Tuesday that Landrieu had used taxpayer funds to pay for a charter flight to attend a campaign fundraiser. The flight should have been paid for by Landrieu’s campaign but was instead reportedly paid for by her Senate office, which is a violation of federal law.

Making a bad week worse, USA Today reported Landrieu was among one of the Senate’s biggest spenders in chartering flights for official Senate business, racking up a $47,000 tab in 2013. Once again, Levy came to the rescue by saying, “We take our finances very seriously and are glad we caught the vendor’s mistake and were able to rectify the matter as soon as possible,” in a statement to ABC News.

Landrieu’s opponents are now calling her, “Mary Landrieu, Louisiana’s Frequent Flier.” The story refuses to die in the 24-hour news cycle candidate’s face in 2014. A second report on Thursday by CNN reported Landrieu would also reimburse a separate charter flight, for which her Senate office paid $5,700.

Cassidy’s campaign spokesman John Cummins called the second flight reimbursement “a pattern” of disregard for taxpayer money. His remarks were followed by the Louisiana Republican Party launching an “Air Mary” campaign, complete with its own Twitter handle @AirMaryLa. The final dig describes Landrieu’s mishaps as “Taxpayer Funded Flights since 1997, because clout doesn't fly coach.”

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