A potent name and knack for the hard-fought campaigns helped Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana turn aside a Republican challenge Tuesday as she won a third term in the U.S. Senate.
Landrieu, 52, had been the GOP's top target in Senate contests, so her victory was a disappointment for Republicans across the land. They stood to gain no additional seats and lose a handful to Democrats, poised to expand their majority but likely to fall short of the 60 seats needed to halt filibusters.
Landrieu came out on top despite a challenge from three-term state Treasurer John Kennedy, a party switcher who left the Democrats and threw in his fortunes with the GOP in August 2007.
Four years ago, Kennedy lost a primary race for the Senate seat won by Republican David Vitter. The treasurer brought name recognition and statewide campaign experience to the contest. But analysts said Landrieu's help for the state after Hurricane Katrina helped burnish her reputation.
Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign, who led the charge for the GOP in Senate contests, early on had forecast the race would be a "bloodbath." But Landrieu defined Kennedy early, dubbing him "one confused politician" for his departure from her party and flip-flops on issues such as President Bush's tax cuts.
Landrieu, from a famed political family, won her two earlier Senate elections by narrow margins, the key reason Republicans had hoped to send her packing. There was talk that her base had shrunk after Katrina and the state was trending red. In the end, her formidable campaign skills and a reputation for taking care of her state trumped all else, leaving her comfortably ahead of the Republican named Kennedy.