With polls continuing to favor Republican Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy over incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, both Senate candidates were desperate to prove themselves in only debate before Saturday’s runoff.
Here are the top moments Monday night’s debate in Baton Rouge:
1) Moderator Tells Landrieu She Would Be ‘Laughed Out The Room’ For Charter Flight Expenses In Private Sector
Right from the start, Landrieu was criticized, as she has been for the majority of the campaign, for her use of taxpayer funding for charter flights to attend campaign events. According to an internal investigation, Landrieu billed taxpayers $33,700 in campaign flights between 1997 and 2002, including one charter flight for $5,500 from New Orleans to Lake Charles.
Moderator John Snell told the incumbent Democrat that most people would be “laughed out the room” if they had charged that kind of expense to a company in the private sector. Landrieu defended her use of funding, explaining that each senator’s budget can be used within certain guidelines. The senator adding that even though this use is “entirely legal,” she laid the blame for the error on a book-keeping error.
The topic came up from the outset when Cassidy responded to Landrieu’s assertion that he falsified time sheets and took money from Louisiana State University for medical work he did not perform.
2) Landrieu Defends Her Comments On The South’s Attitudes Toward African-Americans And Women
Responding to a sniping attack from Cassidy, Landrieu defended her comments to NBC’s Chuck Todd, in which she invoked racism and sexism as a reason why President Obama has not garnered much support in the South.
“The South has not always been the friendliest or easiest place for African-Americans to advance, and it’s been a difficult place for women to be recognized as the leaders we are,” Landrieu told Todd.
Rep. Cassidy hit her for the comment, telling the television audience, “I think just because you disagree with the president doesn’t make you a racist.”
“He’s made up the statement that I said that anyone was a racist. You know what I said? I said that the South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans, and it’s also been a region that has not quickly recognized the leadership of women. I will make no apology for something that is a historical fact,” she responded.
3) Landrieu’s Pledge To Pass Keystone … After Her Push Failed In The Senate
Landrieu continued to push the Keystone XL pipeline if re-elected.
“When I get back to the Senate, we will pass the Keystone pipeline,” Landrieu said.
4) Cassidy’s Overarching Campaign Theme: ‘If Sen. Landrieu Represents Barack Obama, I Represent You’
Rep. Cassidy has hammered this idea home throughout his campaign, just as many other GOP challengers did this year with great success. The blueprint for victory in 2014 looks as though it will be executed one final time as polls continue to favor the three-term House member, giving the GOP 54 seats heading into the 114th Congress.
Cassidy made this point during his closing argument.