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Story highlights

Hillary Clinton reached back to Hurricane Katrina to herald Mary Landrieu on Saturday

"She was relentless," Clinton said of the senator's work after the 2005 storm

The former first lady also knocked President George W. Bush in her speech

Landrieu touted her 18-year experience in the Senate, despite a national anti-incumbent mood

(CNN) —  

To Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is the fighter for Louisiana who “refused to let Washington turn its back” on the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina almost 10 years ago.

Clinton reached back to the months and years after the 2005 hurricane killed more than 1,500 people in Louisiana to praise Landrieu on Saturday at a New Orleans rally for the endangered three-term senator.

“She was relentless,” Clinton said, noting that she and Landrieu were in the Senate at the time. “You learn a lot about a person and a leader in a moment like that. And I saw Mary in action, no cameras, no attention, just focused like a laser to take care of her people.”

Clinton continued: “She never gave up. If you know anything about Mary Landrieu, you know that is an ingrained characteristic, she doesn’t shy away from a fight.”

Landrieu is in a different kind of fight this year – a fight to keep her Senate seat against a stout challenge from Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. Every national poll since the start of September has shown Cassidy besting the incumbent.

Clinton did her part on Saturday to knock Cassidy but never actually referred to him by name.

“From what I have heard, Mary’s opponent didn’t really lift a finger after Isaac,” Clinton said, using a familiar Landrieu campaign attack that cites a 2012 no-vote against legislation that included disaster relief money for the state after Hurricane Isaac rocked the state.

Clinton also subtly hit George W. Bush’s presidency for fumbling the response to Katrina, blaming the former president for a “paralyzed” response to the tragedy.

For her part, Landrieu portrayed herself as the right choice for Louisiana because her support for oil and gas, women and seniors.

She also didn’t run away from her 18-years in the Senate, despite polls that show a deep-seeded resentment of Congress and an anti-incumbent mood throughout the country.

“I have now worked with three presidents, four majority leaders and six governors,” Landrieu said within the first few minutes of her speech. “And I know how to get work done for you, no matter what the line up in Washington is and no matter how gridlocked it might be.”

Landrieu, however, finds herself behind in her fourth race.

Cassidy has sought to tie Landrieu to President Barack Obama, who in much of Louisiana is markedly unpopular. In nearly every ad, Cassidy mention that “Landrieu supports Barack Obama 97 percent of the time.”

The attacks have worked and some polls show the Democratic senator might be past the point of Clinton’s saving.

Landrieu advisers and spokesmen on Saturday told reporters to disregard most of the polling and instead pointed to early voting totals as proof that momentum is swinging their way.

In particular, Matthew Lehner, a senior adviser to Landrieu, pointed to the fact that 33% of early ballots totals have come from black voters, a strong demographic for the Democrat.

“Sen. Landrieu has had tight races in all of her races,” said Fabien Levy, the campaign’s spokesman. “If need be, we will be ready [for a runoff]. But we are ready to win this on election night.”