Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu's re-election race is truly running out of air: She's responsible for a mere 4 percent of all TV spots in the week-old Louisiana runoff. Republican challenger Bill Cassidy and his friends paid for 96 percent of the spots that have run so far.
That's a spending disparity unthinkable just two weeks ago when top Democratic strategist Guy Cecil estimated a runoff could cost $35 million on each side. Since Election Day, Mary Landrieu has aired 82 spots to Cassidy & Company's 1,917 commercials, according to Kantar Media's CMAG data. Landrieu's ads are running in two of the state's six media markets. Cassidy has all of Louisiana blanketed.
It wasn't always like this. From Sept. 1 through Nov. 4, Landrieu had the upper hand in the air war. She ran 14,651 spots in that time period compared to Cassidy's 10,302, according to Kantar Media. Then she was forced into a runoff on Election Day by failing to get more than 50 percent of the vote in an eight-candidate race. With the seat no longer a factor in determining which party controls the Senate (Republicans won that outright), her one time allies at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee promptly pulled their pre-runoff ad buy. Meanwhile, Tea Party backed Rob Maness, who drew nearly 14 percent of the vote on Nov. 4, threw his support to Cassidy, uniting the GOP against Landrieu.
There could be a smidgen of help coming from Washington for the besieged incumbent. Democratic leaders are considering a vote during the lame-duck session to approve the Keystone pipeline, one of Landrieu's top priorities, Bloomberg's Kathleen Hunter reports. Likely, though, that will come too little, too late.
Cassidy's campaign has been responsible for nearly 1,000 of the ads that have run so far—and he's getting help from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the David and Charles Koch-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund. The NRSC spot goes beyond the party's already successful theme of tying Democrats to Obama by saying Landrieu has "became his accomplice."
Landrieu's ad, while lacking in airtime so far, is just as brutal. It cuts footage from a speech Cassidy delivered earlier this year, showing him stumbling over words. "Nearly incoherent," the narrator says. "We'd lose Mary Landrieu's clout for this?"
GOP-leaning outside groups are also helping Cassidy in other ways. Americans for Prosperity, another arm of the Koch political network, just spent $3,000 for online ads that will appear on Facebook. The Women Speak Out PAC, a group that tries to put pro-life candidates in office, is speaking out against Landrieu--and paying mileage and salaries for a passel of staffers working on the ground to support Cassidy. Even the Black Conservatives Fund reported spending money for Cassidy.
The number of outside group supporting Landrieu: zero.