Louisiana Democrats’ best chance to beat David Vitter? Vote Republican

U.S. Sen. David Vitter

Screen shot of U.S. Sen. David Vitter announcing his candidacy for Louisiana governor.

By Robert Mann

Last week, I argued that Sen. David Vitter – the undisputed leader in this year’s governor’s race – should be nervous because of our electorate’s long history of punishing frontrunners and promoting also-rans.

Now, a counterpoint to that argument: Unless the state’s Democrats acknowledge their unprecedented unpopularity, Vitter may coast to victory. If they are smart, Democrats might decide the campaign and defeat Vitter, their bete noir.

A new poll by Southern Media & Opinion Research shows Vitter with a commanding lead of 38 percent. The lone Democrat, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, trails him with 25 percent. Farther behind are Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, at 16 percent, and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, at 5 percent.

Assuming most Democratic voters will support Edwards, he appears poised to claim a runoff spot with Vitter. If you’ve paid attention to state elections over the past 10 years, you’ll understand why Vitter craves this scenario.

Let’s get to the point: A Democrat – even one as effective, honest and politically moderate as Edwards – cannot win a Louisiana statewide election. Twenty years ago, someone like Edwards would have been unbeatable. Today, however, a vote for the Amite Democrat is, for all practical purposes, a vote for Vitter.

For this column, I consulted a dozen political observers, Democratic operatives and former elected officials, none of them affiliated with Edwards’ campaign. Not one of them believes Edwards stands a chance against Vitter.

I worked 17 years for U.S. Sen. John Breaux, perhaps the most popular member of Congress from Louisiana in the past half century. No disrespect to Breaux, but I wouldn’t bet $100 that he could beat Vitter today in a head-up race for governor. This is not about the impressive political skills or moderate ideology of Edwards (or Breaux); it’s about the hard right turn the state took over the past 10 years.

After former Sen. Mary Landrieu’s crushing defeat last December, it should be evident that Louisiana is hostile territory for Democrats. Landrieu had every advantage: money, seniority, decades of campaign experience, policy gravitas and the gavel of the powerful Senate Energy Committee. None of that mattered more than the shrinking ranks of the Democratic Party (down by more than 225,000 voters) since 2004.

Evidence of the Democrats’ collapse is that their party – for the first time in more than 145 years – does not hold one statewide elected office.

Democrats must face facts. This is a GOP state, not just in national elections, but statewide contests, too.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

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8 Responses to Louisiana Democrats’ best chance to beat David Vitter? Vote Republican

  1. Stephen Winham says:

    In light of this political reality, I have no choice but to support Jay Dardenne. Like any other Democrat, I would prefer a Democrat, but given a choice among Republicans, I see Dardenne as the clear alternative.

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  2. Louis Sparks says:

    End U.S. Corporate-Fascism with its continual unprovoked wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc.), proxy-wars (Syria), coup d’états (Ukraine), its murder of innocents with drones, and war crimes. End it’s anti-citizen, anti-middle-class, anti-working-class, anti-labor, anti-equality, racist and anti-liberty agendas.

    Dump the Democrats and form a REAL pro-citizen, pro-working-people, pro-labor political party.

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  3. Pingback: Louisiana Democrats’ best chance to beat ...

  4. Ara says:

    Bob, I get it. But I disagree with you and here’s why:
    On the simplest level possible, even a “moderate Republican” (whatever the hell THAT is) will be eventually be forced hard, hard right to avoid being primaried. So even Dardenne won’t be who you hope he’d be, i.e., less insane than Vitter.
    But more importantly, If the Democrats are going to lose, I’d much rather see them go down swinging. I’d much rather see them offer people a real choice on income inequality, health care, green jobs, education, etc.
    We’re on the right side of history. We should start acting like it. The best time to have done that would have been 4 or 8 years ago. But the second best time to do that is now.

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    • Robert Mann says:

      Not sure I get the first part of your comment. We have no party primary. That’s why Vitter wants Edwards. Just watch how they protect him until he gets into the runoff. They won’t say an unkind word about him.

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  5. Bob Mann is certainly one of the finest political commentator and strategist we have on the left in the state. He is not alone in wondering whether a vote for John Bel Edwards, who has dim hopes for a victory, becomes a vote for Vitter. But even if a second place showing for Edwards squeezes the less offensive Dardenne out of the race, an Edwards vote may not be a wasted one.
    Edwards has clearly demonstrated strong leadership and thoughtfulness. At what has probably been a great cost to his political career he has remained a Democratic, an authentic, humane moderate Southern Democratic. If only 35% of the state vote for him, which would be sad, it would still indicate to the citizens of our state and to the world that we aren’t all right wing Republicans in Louisiana. We aren’t.
    You may say that having Vitter in office is too high a price to pay for such self righteous feelings and posturing. But another one of your readers has observed that there is no certainly what a Dardenne term would be like, even though we sense he is less of a scrooge than Vitter.
    Finally saying that Democracts will never carry the state becomes a self fulfilling prophecy from here on out, if even Louisiana’s Democrat minority finks out on its own very talented candidate.

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  6. Ara says:

    Bob – I stand corrected on being primaried. Regardless, Dardenne will move hard right to avoid being overtaken by someone else playing to the base.
    As for JBE, we both agree he’s a loser but for different reasons. He’s not subject to some sort of outside historical force beyond his control. You remember what Harry Truman said: “If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time.”

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  7. dp says:

    People giving up on JBE before there’s an election is his only problem. If no one supports him, the prediction that he’s going to lose becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shame on anyone who won’t support the very best candidate in the race because of “horse race” analysis.

    If he gets in a runoff with Vitter, he wins. Period.

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