BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — In his bid to be Louisiana's next U.S. senator, Rep. Bill Cassidy can't quite catch a break.
The Baton Rouge Republican is trying to navigate the tricky political territory of appealing to a base of conservative GOP supporters without alienating other voters he'll need to defeat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in the November 2014 election.
His latest fundraising quarter was below expectations, falling well behind his prior quarter, and he continues to lag behind Landrieu's pace. Cassidy's campaign said he brought in $700,000 from July through Sept. 30 and has more than $3.4 million in bank, compared to Landrieu's $1.4 million haul in that same timeframe and $5.8 million in her campaign account.
Meanwhile, the congressman's trying to fight off attacks from the right and the ever-present whispers that he's just not the right candidate to beat Landrieu, who's in her third term despite assessments each election cycle that she's vulnerable to ouster.
One Republican state representative is considering jumping into the Senate race, while another GOP state senator keeps letting speculation linger that he's eyeing the seat as well.
State Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, said he's receiving encouragement to run and will decide by the end of the year. State Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, wouldn't even let his co-hosting of a Cassidy fundraiser suggest that he's ruled out entering the race himself.
While Cassidy has a huge head start on any possible Republican opponent, the constant chatter keeps his campaign fighting multiple fronts, rather than just the Democrats. Continued questioning of his credentials and his campaign's strength also could make it harder to raise money.
The government shutdown was another complication to add into the mix.
Cassidy voted against the deal that ended the 16-day partial government shutdown and staved off a national default, saying it didn't do enough to address the federal deficit or to end what he calls special treatment in the health care law for members of Congress.
That vote gave Cassidy the ability to shore up his base by siding with a faction of conservative House Republicans in the dispute — but gave Democrats a new point of attack about Cassidy being an obstructionist.
Cassidy doesn't necessarily need to be wringing his hands just yet, despite questions about whether the congressman's campaign has lost some steam.
Most importantly, Republicans haven't coalesced behind another party standard-bearer, and while it's easy to talk about getting into a race, bankrolling a full-fledged U.S. Senate campaign isn't quite so simple.
Cassidy's fundraising isn't exactly paltry and can be intimidating enough to other Republicans considering the Senate race. Supporters of the congressman note that he's raised more than similar Republican challengers to Landrieu in prior races.
And his only announced competition, Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel and tea party supporter from Madisonville, has drawn little financial support to challenge Cassidy, raising about $58,000 in the most recent quarter.
Plus, Landrieu's got her own vulnerabilities.
The Democratic senator's strong support of the federal health care overhaul is at odds with many of Louisiana's voters. Polls have shown sizable opposition to the law, along with President Barack Obama, who pushed for its passage.
Continued computer glitches with the federally-run health insurance marketplace that covers Louisiana only threaten to lessen fondness for the health care law further. Landrieu's supported an extension in the enrollment period for people shopping through the marketplace, but she hasn't backed a delay in the requirement that people have insurance or face a penalty.
Perhaps most importantly, Landrieu's fighting the constant demographics of a state that largely trends Republican in national races, a trend that should benefit Cassidy if he can keep other GOP contenders from weakening his support, his fundraising and his campaign's energy.