There’s something about Dave: Fractured party, character issues have Vitter on ropes

Screenshot from the Oct. 14 gubernatorial debate televised from Ruston on the Louisiana Tech University campus.

Screenshot from the Oct. 14 gubernatorial debate televised from Ruston on the Louisiana Tech University campus.

By Robert Mann

After months of waging war against fellow Republicans Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne, U.S. Sen. David Vitter is struggling to rebuild Louisiana’s Republican-conservative coalition. His millions in attack spots aimed at two GOP opponents profoundly fractured his party, the same GOP that was so united last year in defeating Mary Landrieu.

Together, Angelle and Dardenne earned 32 percent of the vote in the Oct. 24 primary. To win the governor’s race, Edwards needs only a third (or less) of that vote. One poll now shows him doing much better than a third. In fact, he may be earning at least half of former Dardenne-Angelle voters.

Perhaps Vitter and his “independent” super PAC had no choice but to kneecap Angelle and Dardenne in the primary. Angelle, especially, posed a serious threat to the erstwhile gubernatorial frontrunner. So, Vitter took them out.

Now, with less than three weeks left to the Nov. 21 runoff, he’s paying a steep price for those attacks. Angelle and Dardenne remain firmly on the sidelines. For a week after the primary, the front page of Dardenne’s campaign website remained up and running, featuring a photo of Vitter with the word “liar” splayed across Republican candidate’s image.

IMG_1457

Dardenne’s former campaign press secretary, Marsanne Golsby (who was also press secretary to former GOP Gov. Mike Foster), has prominently endorsed Edwards. The best news the Vitter camp could conjure was to give a job to Jay Vicknair, Dardenne’s unemployed former campaign manager.

Meanwhile, former Angelle supporters, including some former staffers and close advisors, make no secret of their disdain for Vitter. Based on what I am seeing and hearing from former top supporters of both runners up, there is no effort by the Dardenne and Angelle camps to urge their supporters to support Vitter. In fact, it’s the opposite.

In an interview last week with Tyler Bridges of the Baton Rouge Advocate, Dardenne commented on Vitter’s complaints about a tracker from the pro-Edwards American Bridge 21st Century PAC, who trails Vitter and gathers video of him at public functions. “Dardenne laughed about the video,” Bridges wrote, quoting Dardenne saying of Vitter, “He can give it out, but he can’t take it.”

Over the past week, I have spoken with dozens of Republicans who voted for Dardenne or Scott Angelle. Some of them are friends; others are people I met at several speaking engagements last week or who contacted me by email. These Republicans fall into three groups.

The first group said something like this, “I voted for Jay [or Scott], but I am never voting for that sleazeball, David Vitter. This time, I’m voting for Edwards.”

This group is resolute. Their decision seems irrevocable. They will not vote for Vitter, who they detest because of his perceived lack of character or his vicious attacks on their candidate. Whatever the reason, individuals in this group are not agonizing over their decision to support a Democrat on Nov. 21.

A second group, however, is conflicted in a way the first group is not. People in this group tell me something like this, “I voted for Scott [or Jay], but I’m not sure I can vote for a Democrat. I don’t like Vitter, but I just don’t think I can support Edwards for governor. I may not vote at all. I’m torn.”

Of course, there is a third group of Republicans. These people voted for Vitter in the primary and will vote eagerly for him in the runoff. Or, they voted for one of the other two Republicans and will not agonize over their vote for Vitter on Nov. 21.

If the polls are accurate, about half of the former Angelle and Dardenne supporters are now planning to vote for Vitter. The other half say they will vote for Edwards. If that split holds, Edwards would handily win the race.

Vitter’s campaign, however, knows that many of those former Dardenne and Angelle voters are merely leaning toward Vitter or Edwards. Their votes are still up for grabs. They can still be swayed one way or the other.

That is why Vitter is running that ugly, dishonest and racist TV spot alleging that Edwards wants to release 5,500 “thugs” from prison. He’s trying to exploit the racial animosities of some white voters, hoping to stoke their fear of violent black “thugs” streaming into their neighborhoods to rob their homes and rape their daughters.

Screenshot 2015-10-27 14.21.39

It’s a strategy worthy of David Duke and George Wallace. And it will probably work with a certain percentage of conservative white voters who are easily swayed by racist appeals and cries of “Obama!” But Vitter needs more than the hardcore racist faction of the GOP. In fact, he probably already has that group locked up.

Perhaps blowing racist dog whistles will motivate dispirited racists to go vote, but it is difficult to see how his attack spots will make him any more attractive to former Dardenne and Angelle voters.

Consider this analogy: There’s a bully at your school who has, for months, been beating the stuffing out of your best friend during recess. Finally, the bully stops pummeling your friend and moves on. He finds another victim.

You are delighted for your friend. He is no longer being abused and victimized. But now that you see the bully abusing another person, do you feel any more charitable toward the bully? Not likely. He’s still a nasty, violent person who is abusing other people. In fact, you may now dislike him even more.

In this way, Vitter is the bully who has simply moved along to another victim in hopes of achieving playground supremacy. Because he is so disliked, it’s unlikely that a supermajority of Dardenne and Angelle voters will rally to Vitter’s side. Many of them will either vote for Edwards, or they will not vote at all.

Unless Vitter changes his tactics soon, this election is shaping up to be more a referendum on Vitter’s character than one decided by issues. Vitter should not want this to turn on questions about his temperament and his character. That said, it is difficult to imagine how, without help from a self-immolating John Bel Edwards, he and the GOP can completely rewrite the narrative of this race in three short weeks.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in David Vitter, gay marriage, John Bel Edwards, Louisiana governor's race, Louisiana Politics, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to There’s something about Dave: Fractured party, character issues have Vitter on ropes

  1. Fredster says:

    This is rather sad:

    “I voted for Scott [or Jay], but I’m not sure I can vote for a Democrat. I don’t like Vitter, but I just don’t think I can support Edwards for governor. I may not vote at all. I’m torn.”

    Those folks should be looking at who is the better candidate no matter the party label. They certainly have no room to talk about people who might be yellow dog Democrats because they’re exactly the same.

    Like

    • Celeste Apostalo says:

      Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. ( JFK )

      Liked by 1 person

      • jechoisir says:

        Everyone should hope the Republican Party remains viable nationally and locally. And we should not be deluded by the statements in this discussion that the party represents only backwoods racists (as opposed to city racists). Over the years, parties have shifted in relative emphasis on certain principles, have arisen and faded, but the two-party system has served us and our mother nation well. The health of the nation depends on parties, as limiting as they can often be. In this election some of the biggest contributors to Vitter’s campaign were moneymen in Democrat Kathleen Blanco’s campaign. For such people, power and control matters, not principle. Parties help allay or at least balance the selfishness of both the rich and the poor and all in between in the nation.

        Like

  2. Denarys says:

    I agree with Fredster. This election is about the future of the state of Louisiana, not the party label of the candidates. If these voters are satisfied with the job of our present Republican governor, then I can understand where they are coming from. However, given that the current Republican candidate is displaying some of the same behavior traits, i.e., refusing to appear at debates or speak to the media or to citizens, this does not bode well for improving Louisiana. What has the Republican candidate proposed to improve conditions in this state? Obama is not running for governor of Louisiana and JBE has not served in the Congress, so where is the linkage there? There is none, but as the Republican candidates ads have not publicized his plans to improve the problems facing this state, I’m not sure what reality these voters are basing there votes on. JBE is not any more “liberal” than David Vitter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jechoisir says:

      To Fredster: I mentioned Republican party members only because I must assume that the party hopes to appeal to them with its advertising. Like you, I think these are issues that concern all voters. Realistically, the next governor can hope to take care of one of them, maybe, and improve one or two of the others.

      Like

  3. jechoisir says:

    I’m struck by the ineptness of the Vitter campaign and its failure to understand the Republican constituency and that constituency’s concerns. The ad you regard as racist is a glaring example. Hoodlums on the loose just isn’t a top political issue right now with ordinary Republicans. The Jindal administration’s betrayal in its second-term, the mess the state’s finances are in, the predicament of higher education and public schools, jobs that will employ the least skilled and keep the best and the brightest in the state—these are the issues that matter to most Republican voters. Nor does Obama amount to a hill of beans when it comes to these issues. Vitter’s running for state office, not national, and Obama is only relevant in the latter case. Just as Vitter didn’t not anticipate his votes in the primary, he seems not to have considered this ads lack of appeal in the run-off.

    What candidate would run such an ad when the state’s Sheriff’s Association, the body most immediately concerned about law-and-order, has endorsed his opponent?

    In fact, the Democratic candidate has more Republican grass-roots credentials than Vitter. A graduate of West Point, an Army Ranger, blood kin to sheriffs in excelsis and married to a teacher, John Bel Edwards represents most of the important political values that made the Republican Party viable in the late sixties and seventies. He has been trained to be a leader. He has experience in leadership. He’s from outside New Orleans. And he appears to be a man of character.

    The Republican Party hierarchy has forgotten its constituency, I believe. Look at the fiasco with Rodney Alexander’s resigning before his term expired in order to be able to prepare for a run for state office, thus costing voters a needless election, and Jindal’s parrying that move. I know Republican parish chairmen who know of party dealings only after the fact. It’s possible for a party to have a big campaign chest and no sense of identity that creates loyalty, and with Governor Jindal’s second term and, I think that happened.

    In this jaded age, journalists might say Vitter’s longtime sexual misconduct does not matter. But most people I know think it matters a lot. People don’t like doing business with such folks. And they don’t trust them. Why would anyone assume that people who voted for Dardenne and Angell would vote for Vitter? The Republican Party could have won this election, but not with David Vitter as its candidate.

    Like

    • Fredster says:

      The Jindal administration’s betrayal in its second-term, the mess the state’s finances are in, the predicament of higher education and public schools, jobs that will employ the least skilled and keep the best and the brightest in the state—these are the issues that matter to most Republican voters.

      I would say those items are issues and concerns for everyone and not just Republican voters.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Stu says:

    For Angelle and Dardenne voters is this as bad as the Edwin Edwards v. David Duke choice? Do I vote for the crook or the Nazi? Do I vote for Obama Junior or Sleazeball Dave? I predict John Bel wins.

    Like

  5. Prup (aka Jim Benton) says:

    If Bevin loses today in Kentucky, a lot of Republican weight and money may go to Vitter — not enough for him to win, but the Reps are really going to look bad if he gets beaten badly after a Conway win.

    On a slightly different front, but still dealing with Republican confusion and cannibalism, they are getting so desperate a recent poll showed Piyush Brady getting 6% and THAT is desperate.

    Like

  6. Prup (aka Jim Benton) says:

    6% in Iowa I should have said, and I wish WP had an edit button.

    Like

  7. Wayne Lemoine says:

    You can’t vote for a former West Point Graduate but can vote for a sleze ball like Vitter. If so don’t talk to me about Family Values because you have none.

    Like

Comments are closed.