David Vitter’s “women problem”

U.S. Sen. David Vitter

Screen shot of U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s online video announcing his candidacy for governor

By Robert Mann

Speaking to a Baton Rouge Rotary club recently about Louisiana’s governor’s race, I noted that Sen. David Vitter “has a woman problem.” The audience — most of them middle-income, white conservatives — erupted in laughter.

“No, that’s not what I’m talking about,” I said, as the chortling subsided. They thought I meant Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal. But, as I explained, polls reveal that Vitter, unlike his three opponents, faces a significant gender gap. In one recent statewide poll, by Southern Media and Opinion Research, the difference between Vitter’s support among men and women was 15 percent. Among Republican women, the gap was even bigger — 17 percent lower than among Republican men.

After the breakfast, that statistic became real to me. Several women who identified themselves as staunch Republicans sought me out to say that, under no circumstances, would they vote for Vitter. The reason: his prostitution scandal.

I still believe — as I wrote several weeks ago — that a runoff with the race’s lone Democrat, state Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite, remains Vitter’s to lose. A Louisiana Democrat has not won a statewide race in since 2008. Whites have largely abandoned the Democratic Party since 2000 and a Democrat hasn’t won a statewide race since 2008.

All that said, it’s interesting to note — and probably a bit worrying to Vitter — that his prostitution scandal still dogs him among some women. Vitter can still win, even with the wide gender disparity, but if he doesn’t close that gap, it could make his path to victory uncomfortably narrow and somewhat perilous.

As you might imagine, Edwards vigorously disputed my earlier analysis of his odds of winning. Edwards is a good-natured sort, so when he called to discuss my column, it was not to scold but to nudge me to look more closely at the polling.

One point he made, supported by internal poll numbers his campaign provided me, is that many voters are not as acutely aware of Vitter’s prostitution scandal as one might presume. It exploded eight years ago, which is a lifetime in politics. And while Vitter survived the scandal to win re-election in 2010, he never faced the barrage of attacks that he will endure in the coming months.

Lest you charge me with relying too heavily on Edwards’ own numbers, I should note that the case for Vitter’s rough ride is also supported by recent numbers in an independent poll conducted in May by Market Research Insight (MRI), financed by more than a dozen prominent Louisiana business executives. A Florida firm, MRI is headed by respected Louisiana native Verne Kennedy, who has worked mostly for GOP campaigns. With the permission of the poll’s sponsors, Kennedy gave me the results, including some of the internal numbers, or “cross tabs.”

First, after examining this and other polls, it is increasingly difficult to see how either Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne or Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle can leapfrog Edwards to claim a runoff spot with Vitter. Anything can happen in Louisiana gubernatorial politics, which I noted a few weeks ago, but time is running out for Dardenne and Angelle. One of them needs to make a move — and soon.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

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3 Responses to David Vitter’s “women problem”

  1. Stephen Winham says:

    This is very encouraging! In addition to everything mentioned here, it may be that a backlash against Republicans in general is picking up based on negative reports about governors Jindal, Scott Walker, Sam Brownback and others. For example, on Wednesday Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist Democrat vying for the Democratic POTUS nomination, attracted a record-setting crowd to a speech in Wisconsin. So, it is just possible that the trend toward all things Republican is reversing, but not yet polling. I know. I know. We live in Louisiana, not Wisconsin or Kansas, but most of my friends are fed up with the social Darwinism that seems to be at the heart of the far right Republican agenda and are hoping John Bel Edwards has a chance. This gives us hope

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  2. lasofubar says:

    You said in your article, and I quote: ” One point he (Edwards) made, supported by internal poll numbers his campaign provided me, is that many voters are not as acutely aware of Vitter’s prostitution scandal as one might presume. ”

    I would venture to say the same about Piyush Jindal’s carnage. Not only do the people in this country not know his record of pillage in Louisiana, they do not even know his real name. And now he is publishing ads in Iowa filled with nothing but lies, and there’s no one there to counter them. With his low popularity polling, no wonder he ran away from Louisiana so quickly. Gotta run to somewhere where he can still get over on people.

    The corruption levels in Louisiana politics have always astounded me. Yet these narcissistic con-men keep emerging and getting elected, and, as in the most recent, possibly most infamous, case of Jindal, given the keys to the treasury and the infrastructure and allowed to set up their own little kingdoms.

    Thank you for keeping the truth out there.

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  3. Fredster says:

    Didn’t Vitter also have a staffer who had some kind of issues with a woman or make some kind of offensive comments about women? I seem to remember just a bit of something like that.

    Ah yes…here we go:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/vitter-aide-attacked-girlfriend-pleaded-guilty/story?id=10913025

    I’m sure a candidate could use those Republican women numbers and then pull off a “Vitter-clueless on womens’ issues” ad. This is Louisiana and dirty politics is certainly in the books.

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