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Candy Crowley: Can a Republican win?

CNN's Candy Crowley
CNN's Candy Crowley

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DONALDSONVILLE, Louisiana (CNN) -- The last election of the fall campaign is Louisiana's neck-and-neck Senate runoff, as voters choose Saturday between incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu, and Republican Suzanne Terrell.

CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Louisiana and spoke to anchor Judy Woodruff about the heated election.

CROWLEY: We're standing outside a sugar mill that was closed about two years ago. It's serving as a pretty good backdrop for Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who lately has been trying to highlight a report in a Mexican newspaper about a so-called secret Bush administration deal that will allow tons of sugar to come into the U.S., at the expense of Louisiana jobs.

Now, Landrieu's opponent, Suzie Terrell, says there's no such deal, secret or otherwise. And she says she knows that because she talked to the Bush administration Trade Office. All of this is pretty much indicative of what's been going on down here in Louisiana and what the main question of this campaign is. And that is: Who will better serve Louisiana, a Republican or a Democrat?

(Videotape begins)

CROWLEY: The food is always good [in Louisiana], but the going is unusually rough for Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who struggles to find the sweet spot between her urban, mostly anti-Bush African-American base and white conservatives, many of whom are pro-Bush.

LANDRIEU, Democratic candidate for senator from Louisiana: Well, I don't perceive that I'm running against the president. I have supported the president in many instances when his policies have been right for Louisiana. I am running not really against anything. I'm running for the state of Louisiana.

CROWLEY: All Republicans want for Christmas is Suzie Terrell in the Senate. A self-described member of Louisiana's new breed of reformers, Terrell is a popular gal these days, flaunting her friends in high places.

TERRELL, Republican candidate for senator from Louisiana: What's important is that I'll have the president's ear on issues that are important to Louisiana.

CROWLEY: A Terrell win would make history. There hasn't been a Louisiana Republican elected to the U.S. Senate since the Civil War.

Suzie and Mary are not playing well together in these final days. They rarely looked at each other in the last debate and they have loaded up the airwaves with nasty ads.

They have fought over tax cuts, abortion, and Mexican sugar imports. But, in this incredibly close and final Senate race of the '02 election season, it's hard to ignore the Bush factor.

(Videotape ends)

CROWLEY: No matter who wins in this election Saturday, it will not change the big picture in Washington. Republicans will still be in the majority in the Senate.

But if the Democrats win here, it would allow them to keep a foothold in the South, increasingly Republican now, and give them a reason to celebrate the new year. For George Bush, it would be a little extra margin to guard against any defections -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy, I have to ask you. What are you hearing about turnout, which they say is going to make all the difference in this contest? How interested are Louisiana voters?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, there's a couple of things. They don't really know. That's the bottom line. They don't know how many people are going to turn out. That's what all elections come down to in the final days. Certainly, that's what this has come down to.

A couple of things: First of all, what Mary Landrieu needs is a big turnout in her African-American base in the cities. They have been fairly lukewarm to Mary Landrieu. They are worried that, without that big turnout, she can't win. And they don't know if they're going to be able to turn it out. They've had some help from some high- profile black Democrats, so they're hoping that will help them.

On the Republican side, tomorrow is the beginning of hunting season in Louisiana. And there's a big LSU football out-of-state game. So, that could also bring down some of the turnout. And, beyond that, it's a runoff election in December, right in the holiday season. They just aren't sure.

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