Slow start to Landrieu's runoff campaign

Louisiana's incumbent U.S. senator goes dark as opponent Cassidy airs hundreds of TV ads

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Sen. Mary Landrieu's overtime bid to win re-election began with a decidedly sluggish start, as Republican opponent Bill Cassidy and his allies last week pummeled her — effectively uncontested — with hundreds of television advertisements.

Landrieu's campaign didn't air any TV ads during the four days immediately following Nov. 4's general election, when she earned a plurality of the vote but failed to break 50 percent, which triggered a Dec. 6 runoff with Cassidy.

Not until Sunday, Nov. 9, did Landrieu's campaign return to TV after a sustained advertising push that abruptly ended on Election Day, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG, an ad tracking service.

When it did, the campaign aired a modest 70 ads between Sunday and Monday, Kantar Media/CMAG data indicates — although the messages were biting, lampooning Cassidy as an incoherent bumbler unable to string a sentence together.

Meanwhile, super PACs, political party committees and other organizations that had together run thousands of ads during the general election phase in support of Landrieu were nowhere to be found on Louisiana's airwaves after Election Day. And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reportedly canceled its scheduled ad buys buoying Landrieu.

Cassidy's campaign, in contrast, ran nearly 700 TV ads from Nov. 5 through Nov. 8. And the National Republican Senatorial Committee aired about 350 TV ads from Nov. 5 to Nov. 8 blasting Landrieu.

Meanwhile, Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC backed by the political network of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, sponsored another 175 anti-Landrieu TV ads during that timeframe.

That's a marked change from earlier in the race, when Landrieu ruled the airwaves.

Landrieu's campaign accounted for nearly two of every five TV ads aired in the race through Nov. 3 — more than any other advertiser in the race. Overall, Landreiu and her allies aired about 70 percent more TV ads than all Republican candidates and conservative groups active in the race ahead of the Nov. 4 election.

Landrieu's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

In a fundraising solicitation to supporters Thursday, Landrieu campaign Finance Director Kate Magsamen struck an upbeat tone.

"Since we started this all-or-nothing runoff for the last Senate seat in the country, support has been pouring in from all over Louisiana and throughout the country — including $508,150 online alone," Magsamen wrote. "Mary has asked us to reach $600,000 in online contributions by Su‌nda‌y ... we need to seize this opportunity now."

The campaign is now using its cash in an attempt to keep its recent advertising gap from widening, reserving hundreds of 30-second ad spots on stations throughout Louisiana.

On WBRZ-TV 2 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for example, the Landrieu campaign is dropping more than $22,000 on ads that began Monday and are scheduled to run through Sunday, according to a filing with the station.

On WWL-TV 4 in New Orleans, the Landrieu campaign reserved about $21,500 worth of ads for the same time period, FCC filings indicate.

Landrieu has plenty of conservative company, however, with organizations such as pro-Cassidy super PAC Ending Spending Action Fund booking significant TV ad buys for mid-to-late November.

The Federal Election Commission next requires the Landrieu and Cassidy campaigns to file financial disclosures — they will reveal their fundraising and expenditure numbers through Nov. 16 — on Nov. 24.

The most recently filed FEC records indicate the Cassidy campaign on Oct. 15 had about $3.1 million cash on hand, while the Landrieu campaign had about $1.64 million.

The runoff between Landrieu and Cassidy is Dec. 6. Early voting begins Nov. 22.

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