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Bitter Senate race between Landrieu and 2 GOP challengers at top of Louisiana ballot Tuesday

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — After an attack-heavy campaign season, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was hoping to cobble together enough support to upset conventional wisdom and win outright in Tuesday's election — and avoid another long month of campaigning.

The three-term Democratic incumbent and her chief Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, both tried to wrangle last-minute votes Monday.

Landrieu had rallies in Alexandria and Baton Rouge, and her campaign unveiled new radio ads from Louisiana's former U.S. senators, Democrats John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston, hailing Landrieu's seniority as invaluable to the small state.

At a union hall, Landrieu said she was "going to surprise the nation" Tuesday with a victory.

"We are going to win this election. There's going to be a lot of confusion with the pundits tomorrow saying how did we do it?" she said.

Cassidy knocked on doors in the Baton Rouge neighborhood where he grew up, leaving campaign flyers with handwritten messages when no one answered the door and telling residents, "Hi, I'm that guy running for Senate. If I can get your vote, I'd be honored."

The two have strikingly different campaign pitches. Landrieu sought to downplay the national implications of a race that will help decide party control of the Senate. Cassidy amped up the potential that Louisiana's race could shift the chamber to the GOP.

Cassidy said his voters "have a sense that they are going to help change the direction of the country."

GOP candidate Rob Maness, a tea party favorite running third, campaigned across north Louisiana.

Though Landrieu leads in the polls, an Election Day victory was considered a long-shot at best, largely because of Maness' presence. If no candidate in the eight-person field gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the race goes to a Dec. 6 runoff.

Voting runs from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, with Louisianians also casting ballots in six U.S. House races, deciding 14 constitutional amendments and sifting through a long list of local elections from judgeships to school boards.

But national attention was focused on the Senate race, with Landrieu targeted by the GOP as vulnerable to ouster in a state where President Barack Obama remains consistently unpopular and one that overwhelmingly voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Republicans framed the race as a referendum on Obama's performance and policies.

"If you think that President Obama is establishing a good direction for the United States of America — and of course Sen. Landrieu supports him 97 percent of the time — then she's your candidate," Cassidy said.

Landrieu supporters said the race was about more than who would be president for the next two years, but who had the experience and clout to deliver for Louisiana. They pointed to Landrieu's chairmanship of the energy committee and her seniority in the Senate.

Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, a Democrat and Washington lobbyist who has been campaigning with Landrieu, said it was illogical to choose a senator based on problems or disagreements with the president.

"This election is not a presidential election. It's a Louisiana election."

Though the Senate race drew the most attention, voters in the Baton Rouge area and northeast Louisiana faced decisions in hotly contested House races.

Cassidy's bid for the Senate seat left open his Baton Rouge-based 6th District seat, and 11 candidates were vying for the job. Most prominent was Democratic former Gov. Edwin Edwards, an 87-year-old convicted felon trying to make a return to politics. He's expected to head into a runoff with one of several Republicans in the race.

Leading GOP contenders include state Sen. Dan Claitor, businessman Paul Dietzel, former state coastal chief Garret Graves and state Rep. Lenar Whitney.

In northeast Louisiana's 5th District, Republican incumbent Vance McAllister wasn't even certain to make the runoff after he was caught on security video kissing a woman who was not his wife less than a year into office.

Eight men are challenging McAllister, including Republican Zach Dasher, a political newcomer related to the bearded men of TV's "Duck Dynasty," GOP doctor Ralph Abraham and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, the only Democrat seeking the seat.

Louisiana's four other incumbent congressmen drew little-funded challengers who were unable to mount large opposition efforts. Republicans Steve Scalise, Charles Boustany and John Fleming and Democrat Cedric Richmond were expected to win easily.

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