First-term Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu beat her Republican opponent, Suzanne Haik Terrell, by 52 to 48 percent in Louisiana’s runoff election on Saturday. Landrieu’s win came as a surprise to both sides, as Terrell had raised and spent considerably more money than Landrieu. In addition, Terrell had the advantage of a stump speech by President Bush that raised $1.3 million in the final week of the campaign, as well as access to his national database of donors. Just last week a a Republican official dubbed the Louisiana race “Operation Icing on the Cake.” Democrats were hopeful that this victory “proves the Democrats are alive and well,” as Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) put it, according to the New York Times. The US Senate remains in the hands of the Republicans, with Senators split 51 Republican, 48 Democrat, and one Independent.
Analysts have attributed Landrieu’s win to a variety of factors. Key to her victory was African-American voter turnout. Landrieu herself said at a news conference this morning, “The soul of our party is the African American community, and they stood up,” according to the Washington Post. African-American voters had been critical of Landrieu, fearing that she was too conservative. However, some analysts said that attack ads by Republicans portraying Landrieu as very liberal may have provided some unexpected support from the black community, according to the Post. Landrieu also characterized her win as indicating growing antagonism toward President Bush, saying “[Louisiana voters] are very disappointed at what they are seeing coming out of the White House, and they just expressed that anger,” reported the Post.
Although both women support the right to abortion in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, Terrell has said she favors an eventual ban on abortion in all cases, Kaisernetwork.org reports. Landrieu is more supportive of abortion rights, though she does support so-called “partial-birth” abortion bans.