BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Photos of a vulnerable Democratic senator helping a constituent drink upside-down from a beer keg would be a faux pas six weeks before Election Day in many places.
But in party-centric Louisiana, prominent players say the image of Sen. Mary Landrieu at an LSU pregame tailgate party, which went viral on social media, won't hurt the senator in this land of "laissez les bons temps rouler."
"Let the good times roll," that is.
If anything, the snapshots could affirm Landrieu's home-state connections as she fights GOP attacks tying her to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Even her Republican opponents, Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, who have cast Landrieu as "out of touch," aren't going after her for the keg stand assist.
Landrieu, who is locked in a tight race for a fourth Senate term, is aware that her latest exploits drew finger-wagging on Twitter and Facebook, mostly from beyond Louisiana's borders.
"They need to get a sense of humor, and they need to get a life. It's just the way we roll," the senator said at an event this week, as fellow Louisiana officials laughed alongside.
Some of the criticism centered on the problem of college binge drinking, even though the man in the photos is no longer a student.
Landrieu campaigned Saturday on the Louisiana State University campus before the Tigers' game againstMississippi State University. According to her campaign and a reporter from Mother Jones magazine, a 28-year-old LSU graduate asked Landrieu's help doing a keg stand. As his friends held him upside down, Landrieu held the spigot as he gulped down beer while a crowd cheered.
Landrieu, an alumna of LSU, said the man was old enough "to make decisions for himself," and added that his father was on hand.
Louisiana partisans and neutral observers say critics misjudge the culture here if they think those circumstances qualify as a political liability, much less a scandal.
"Louisiana politics and alcohol have a long history together," said Baton Rouge radio host Jim Engster, who attended LSU with Landrieu.
"This shows she's just Mary, one of us, and there's no higher compliment a Louisiana politician can get," saidstate Rep. Walt Leger, a New Orleans Democrat and LSU alumnus. "There are people who will vote for Mary no matter what. There are people who don't like Barack Obama and won't vote for Mary no matter what. ... But people in the middle aren't going to base their decision on anything she did at an LSU tailgate."
Barrow reported from Atlanta. Follow the reporters on Twitter @BillBarrowAP and @MelindaDeslatte.
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Posted on Tue, September 23, 2014
by Bill Barrow and Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press