Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu: Obama rates "a 6 to 7" out of 10

Senate candidate, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, Republican candidate Rob Maness and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., right, take their seats before their debate at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014.

Gerald Herbert, AP

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu framed Louisiana's Senate election as a referendum on her three terms in office, not the policies of unpopular President Obama, in the first TV debate featuring all three major contenders in the race.

Landrieu showed her hand on the last question of the evening, when asked during a lightning-round session how she would rate Mr. Obama's performance on a scale of 1-10.

"A six to seven," the endangered Democrat replied. It wasn't the first time of the night she attempted to distance herself from the president. Boasting her support of fossil fuels, Landrieu told voters in her oil-rich state: "I do not agree with President Obama on his energy policies."

Cassidy repeatedly tied Landrieu to Mr. Obama's policies, saying a vote for her would be a vote for the president's agenda.

"She represents Barack Obama. I represent you," Cassidy said.

Maness positioned himself as the Washington outsider. "Our future is in danger from poor leadership from career politicians," he said.

But the most spirited interactions of the evening centered on disaster relief -- a hot topic for a state that in 2005 was devastated at the hands of one of the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic tropical cyclones in U.S. history.

Hurricane Katrina, Cassidy said in his opening statement, is what inspired him to run for Congress in the first place. Landrieu, though, called it a bluff: "After six years in Washington," she said, "he voted against disaster aid for Hurricane Isaac when it hit his own district."

Cassidy argued that the bill he supported instead would have almost doubled what Louisiana received in terms of disaster funding.

Maness, for his part, used the debate to tout his experience as a retired Air Force colonel.