The Slatest

Landrieu Struggles to Spin Failed Keystone XL Vote

So lonely.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

After her last-ditch effort to save her re-election bid went down in a blaze of glory, Sen. Mary Landrieu tried to put on a brave face.

Landrieu, whose prospects in the Dec. 6 Louisiana Senate runoff are none too sunny, pushed hard for a vote to authorize construction on the Keystone XL pipeline as a final effort to prove she could get something done in Congress (others have made Hail Mary jokes; I will refrain). She got the vote to happen, but—as expected—fell one vote short of the 60 needed for passage.

Getting the provision passed probably wouldn’t have saved Landrieu’s Senate career. But it wouldn’t have hurt. Instead, the Louisiana Democrat had to explain the tough outcome to a crowd of inquisitive reporters (myself included) eager to add another chapter to their chronicles of her demise.

Fortunately for her, she had company. Fellow red-state Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.V.) joined her in the Senate Studio to try to deliver an optimistic postmortem.

“I look forward to the next Congress when Mary Landrieu, Joe Manchin, and a number of our other great Democratic senators who stepped up to say yes to jobs and yes to rational energy policy, will be back fighting this issue,” said Heitkamp, smiling a bit sadly.

To be fair, it is mathematically possible that Landrieu will be back next year.

Landrieu angled to present herself as a happy warrior.

“There is no blame,” she said of the night’s loss. “There is only joy in the fight. Where I come from, we just never talk about quitting and we don’t talk about whining.”

Landrieu also tried to explain her bullish and false prediction that she would get the support needed. She knew she had a sizable coalition of Senators on her side, she said, and she thought that coalition would be able to persuade one more Senator to join up. Alas!

The worst thing about this for Landrieu is that it could backfire, undermining a central tenet of her case for re-election: that she has the Capitol Hill clout to get things done. Within minutes of the vote’s failure, Republican challenger Bill Cassidy started needling her on Twitter.

His second tweet featured a picture of a turned-off light switch with the word “CLOUT” written over it. The meaning of that image is a little fuzzy—turn down for clout, or something?

Landrieu could have a tricky time shutting down that argument, though. Republicans will say that this vote was a litmus test on her ability to make things happen, and that she failed it.

“Only a senior member that has been here as long as I have could recognize the opportunity,” she said when asked about Republicans’ inevitable case against her.

“My experience is still valuable,” she said.

Heitkamp and Manchin then circled the wagons.

“I’ve been able to see, in the short time Mary has been the chairman, that we’re able to move things forward, to have discussions we’ve never had before,” said Manchin.

“It’s important for Mary to come back,” he added. “I’ve told the people of Louisiana, I sure do hope they understand that.”

Then Heitkamp jumped in.

“I think that we talk about clout,” she said. “But the single most important attribute of a successful Senator is tenacity, is the willingness to put it all on the line.”

But is it? Landrieu certainly demonstrated a species of tenacity. But she didn’t get the promised outcome. There are only so many ways to spin that.