Is the Vitter Campaign in Trouble?

Posted by root | 28 Sep, 2015

The race for Louisiana’s next governor is in its final weeks.  Candidate strategies will become apparent if not apparent already and desperation will certainly show its face. 

The David Vitter (R) campaign has abandoned a positive message for constant attacks on his two republican opponents.  Calling Jay Dardenne a liberal and Scott Angelle Obama-like is typical political hyperbole.  Neither claim is true but to the republican base it can sell, and that is what the Vitter campaign and its political action committee are trying to do, rally conservative voters around David Vitter through a constant barrage of negative ads to serve as momentum to a runoff victory in November.  But this strategy may not be working out so well.

The recent released poll by WWL-TV and The Advocate and conducted by the Clarus Research Group shows little new information and yet shows a lot.  In the horse race David Vitter and John Bell Edwards (D) lead with 24% each followed by Scott Angele at 15% and Jay Dardenne at 14%.  These numbers line up with other polls that have been released recently.  The next set of questions, however, produced startling results.  When voters were asked whom they would vote for if each of the other candidates, Angelle, Edwards, and Dardenne, was pitted in a runoff against David Vitter, all of them beat David Vitter including democrat John Bel Edwards.  This was a shock.  The conventional wisdom all along has been that the republican in the runoff, almost assuredly David Vitter, would defeat the democrat given Louisiana’s recent statewide election results of republicans over democrats (McCain over Obama, Vitter over Melancon, Romney over Obama, and Cassidy over Landrieu).  So what gives?

It may just be David Vitter’s negative tone in the election.  Voters can be turned off by too much negative campaigning.  In fact, voters might believe the negative attacks, be mad at the candidate who is throwing the mud, and vote for a third candidate.  This is the worst of all worlds for the person throwing the mud. 

There is a base of voters in Louisiana who do not like David Vitter.  Traditional democrats, the democratic base of blacks, labor, and white liberals, will almost certainly vote for John Bel Edwards in the primary.  But as the polls indicate women in general have a hard time warming up to Vitter most likely due to the prostitution scandal that has plagued him for many years.  These women and some conservative white males are looking for another conservative to support and don’t want to vote for Vitter.  Some have found a home with Scott Angelle or Jay Dardenne.  But the message is clear.  They do not want to vote for David Vitter.

This does not mean that the conventional wisdom of an ultimate republican victory by David Vitter in a November runoff will not happen.  It is still likely that it will.  What it does mean, however, is that David Vitter still has his work cut out for him.  His constant negative barrage of attacks on his two republican opponents is not helping him grow his base.  In fact it may be hurting him.  He certainly has enough support in the polls to make it to a runoff though possibly trailing John Bel Edwards.  But, if he limps into the runoff and narrowly edges out the third place finisher, he will be a wounded duck who will have to repair his image and then convince voters he is the man to be governor.  With just four weeks in a runoff election that may not be enough time, and the political upset of the century could be just around the corner.