SHREVEPORT, La.—Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) rated President Barack Obama a "six or seven" out of 10 and said Obamacare must remain the law in her first senate debate with Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy on Tuesday evening.
The embattled three-term senator argued that she deserves reelection because of her long career in Washington, repeatedly mentioning that her time in the Senate has spanned six Louisiana governors and three presidencies.
Landrieu said she was first inspired to run for office "after college," more than three decades ago when she graduated from Louisiana State University in 1977, in response to the first question of the evening, while Cassidy and Tea Party candidate Rob Maness both said they decided to enter politics within the last decade.
"After Katrina I had led a volunteer group of 300 people and set up a surge hospital within three days to welcome those folks who were fleeing the floodwaters in New Orleans," Cassidy said. "I think that formative experience at that time in my life led me to begin to run for public office. I consider it a continuation of the life of service I’ve done as a doctor working in a hospital for the uninsured."
Cassidy used his medical background to stake out his position against Obamacare, and presented a constituent’s insurance policy renewal that he said recently increased from $725 to $1,200 per month.
Landrieu said the solution is more subsidies, and continued to defend her vote for the law.
"The Affordable Care Act is not perfect," she said. "It needs to be fixed two ways. A copper plan could help make it a little bit more affordable, raise the subsidy for, you know, raise the—additional subsidies, and then also allow insurance agents to sell."
"So there are ways to fix it," Landrieu said. "Not perfect, but we have to keep it and not under any circumstance repeal it."
On campaign finance, Landrieu said Citizens United should be overturned and criticized the Koch brothers, even though she has received thousands in donations from Koch Industries.
"The Koch brothers and Bill Cassidy have literally orchestrated a $25 million bogus campaign run on television," she said.
Landrieu has received more support from super PACs that Cassidy. Nearly $12 million has been spent by outside groups so far in senate race, including $3.6 million spent against Landrieu and $7.3 million against Cassidy, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Landrieu again claimed she supports pay equity, even though public records indicate she paid women 82 cents on the dollar compared to men last year.
Cassidy said he supports pay equity, but does not favor additional legislation because discrimination based on gender is already outlawed. He called the Lily Ledbetter act "trial attorney bailout bill" that opens the doors for lawsuits.
Landrieu also said increasing revenue sharing for offshore drilling is one of her top priorities and that she is the candidate to secure federal funding, although she has failed to advance three bills out of her own Energy committee.
"I have secured it as a junior member of the energy committee," she said. "I’m now chair of the Energy committee."
During a lightning round towards the end of the debate Cassidy was the only candidate to voice his support for medicinal marijuana. The candidates were then asked to rate the president on a scale of one to 10.
"Obama’s a zero," Cassidy said. "Obama’s going to go down as one of the worst presidents in American history."
Landrieu gave Obama, whose approval rating is hovering at 40 percent, a much higher grade of a six to seven, adding, "I think he’s had some really tough issues to deal with."