The most endangered Senate Democrat is touting her Washington ties. Why that’s smart.

In a new TV ad released Tuesday, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) both distances herself from the Obama administration and reminds voters that she is the new head of the Senate Energy Committee, a closely watched panel in Louisiana, where many people work in the oil and gas industry.

The commercial neatly sums up Landrieu's reelection strategy: Remind voters that even though she's a Democrat, she doesn't agree with President Obama on everything; and emphasize the power she has amassed in the Senate on an issue crucial to the state's economy.

 

"For years, she's forced Washington to respect Louisiana," says the narrator of the 60-second commercial. Next, clips of Landrieu in cable news interviews and a committee hearing (the Weekly Standard reported the committee hearing portion is a reenactment) standing up to the administration on energy. "Now, as the new chairman of the Energy Committee," the narrator continues, "she holds the most powerful position in the Senate for Louisiana."

Landrieu became the state's first chair of the Energy Committee in two decades earlier this year after a round of musical chairs set off by Democrat Max Baucus's departure to become ambassador to China. It was one of several reasons the Baucus move was a political boon to Democrats. Landrieu, who now appears to be the most vulnerable senator running for reelection, wouldn't have ascended to her powerful post if not for Baucus.

The commercial is the work of Mark Putnam, who has deep experience crafting ads for red-state Democrats. He made commercials for now-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) in 2012 and is working for Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) this year.

The spot will start airing today, with Landrieu spending $2 million on broadcast spots in multiple media markets. The buy includes $250,000 this week. That's a lot of cash to be spending this early in the cycle.

It's a gambit -- but a necessary one. Landrieu has been backed into a corner. She's faced a barrage of negative advertising from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity over her support for Obamacare. Her very first ad was a defensive one in which she trumpeted her proposed fix to the law. Her main Republican opponent is Rep. Bill Cassidy.

Updated at 11:34 a.m.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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