Louisiana Politics: The State Of The Gret Stet Goober Race

Vitter attack ad. There will be more to come.

As of this writing there’s nothing *new* to add to the Vitter scandal blotter, so I can put my pundit cap on and discuss the post-primary landscape. Two weeks ago, I thought John Bel Edwards would make the run-off and lose to David Vitter. I was not alone in thinking that among Gret Stet liberal pundits. But Edwards flew below the radar during the primary while running a superb campaign. He finished on top in most regions of the state and nearly won David Vitter’s home Parish of Jefferson. That’s the outcome that leaps out and grabs me. In his 2010 re-election campaign, Vitter won by 19 points  statewide and in Jefferson he got 72.504 votes. In Saturday’s primary, he held off Edwards 34, 331 to 30,919. He’s in big trouble.

I realize it comes as shock to everyone that a Democrat can win statewide in Louisiana. It’s true that Mary Landrieu lost last year but that was a Federal election. Louisiana may have turned red in the post-Katrina era BUT we had a Democratic Governor as recently as 2007. It’s difficult but doable as pointed out in this article in yesterday’s Advocate:

Ron Faucheux, a Washington D.C. pollster who once was a Democratic state representative in New Orleans, said Vitter’s high negatives and relatively poor showing make a little more difficult a race that a few months ago seemed like a cinch.

“I think that opens an unusual opportunity for a Democrat to reach across party lines and win the election. That doesn’t mean he (Edwards) can do it.”

Faucheux likened the primary to the anti-Long, pro-Long election of the 1930s and 1940s. Three anti-Vitter candidates, together, gathered 77 percent of the vote. Viewed a different way, the results show that almost 60 percent of the vote was for a Republican.

Faucheux did the poll for The Advocate and WWL-TV that found Edwards had a shot to win a head-to-head contest, at least he did more than a month ago.

Think of that: 77% of the voters said no to a candidate who in his last statewide race received 57% of the vote. One key to the runoff is boosting African-American turnout in New Orleans, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge. One reason I’m convinced this is doable is that Red Stick Mayor/Lt Gov candidate Kip Holden is on the ballot; in Saturday’s primary he got the third highest vote total ever for a black candidate in a Gret Stetwide race. The Edwards camp needs to commit to a major GOTV effort to reach African-American voters. Hopefully, the Democratic Governor’s Association will help with that since they’re sending staff and other assistance to the candidate.

On the issues there are things not to like about JBE. He’s pro-gun, pro-life, and opposed to marriage equality. BUT he’s not fanatical on any of these subjects and favors medicaid expansion, an increase in the minimum wage, and is ready, willing, and able to stand up for public education. In his capacity as House minority leader Edwards has been a consistent critic of Governor PBJ. The word I’ve been using to describe him is persuadable. Is he perfect? Hell no, but the chance to take down Bitter Vitter is making my legs feel all tingly. Ruh roh, I’m sounding like Tweety. I must retrieve my lost decorum, not that I ever had any…

It’s going to be an ugly campaign. Vitter will trot out his patented “OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA,” meme but it remains to be seen how well that will work in a state election with the Obama era coming to an end. The good news is that the Edwards camp has its own whipping boy “JINDAL, JINDAL, JINDAL.” Polls show that PBJ is less popular than the President in Louisiana. There are indications that a JBE=BHO ad helped Edwards by perking up the ears of black voters who hadn’t heard of him.

The ad wars are going to be dominated by “character” issues. I’m not usually a fan of that approach BUT Edwards is a squeaky clean West Pointer and retired army officer who has been talking about how he continues to live by the honor code. In contrast, Vitter is a human toxic waste dump who is widely hated throughout the state. Yes, I said hated, not disliked. To know him is to loathe him.

One group of voters to watch are the people who voted for Lt. Gov Jay Dardenne the most moderate of the major GOP candidates. Dardenne got 15% of the vote and has stated that he won’t endorse anyone. But some of his top aides have come out in support of Edwards and a poll shows that 70% of Dardenne’s voters dislike Vitter. No shocker there. Additionally, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association has endorsed Edwards. It sends a signal to undecided voters who get queasy at the thought of Governor Vitter that JBE isn’t an Adrastos liberal. It’s a big deal.

As to Scott Grievous Angelle, it will be interesting to see what the third place candidate does. His appeal was to right-wing Republicans but he went all in on attacking Vitter; talking about the stench Vitter would bring to state guvmint if elected. Since Angelle is a politician, it’s possible that he might play the party loyalty card and endorse Vitter. In that case, he’d have a lot of explaining do since his anti-Vitter teevee ads seriously damaged Diaper Dave’s cause. My hunch is that Angelle will endorse neither candidate. We shall see.

This is turning out to be the most exciting Gret Stet Goober race since 1991’s race from hell between Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer, and David Duke. The dynamics are very different but that race was a barnburner and this one is too.

Speaking of Sheriffs, I’ll give our new best friend Newell Normand the last word:

Normand, still indignant during an interview with The Advocate on Monday, said he had in fact met with Vitter for more than an hour to discuss law enforcement issues, although he said it was not an entirely cordial exchange.

Normand said he told Vitter that the latter “would be the worst governor in the history of the state of Louisiana.”

“I’ve been straight up, brutally honest with this man,” Normand said, likening Vitter to “a 5-year-old in the sandbox.”

“I haven’t done anything against him other than endorse (Lt. Gov.) Jay Dardenne. As a taxpaying citizen, I’m offended by the fact that he’s got people videotaping folks that I’m having coffee with.”

Normand also alluded to the prostitution rumors that have dogged Vitter since 2007 and popped up intermittently during the campaign.

“Unlike in the prostitution case, why don’t you tell us what your sin is?” Normand said, referring to Vitter’s admission to committing a “very serious sin” after his phone number appeared in the records of the D.C. Madam. “What did you direct (Frenzel’s firm) to do?”

I may have to consider revoking his malaka of the week emeritus status if he keeps this up.