Sen. David Vitter's TV ad blasting runoff opponent John Bel Edwards for allegedly planning to release "thugs...into our neighborhoods" is not only misleading, it also belies the senator's own statement about bipartisan incarceration reforms just a month ago in a statewide TV debate. In that debate, Vitter said, "We warehouse way too many nonviolent criminals in Louisiana."
The Vitter ad attempts to link Edwards to President Barack Obama, who likewise supports the reforms (as do scores of Republicans). The ad falsely claims that Edwards would free 5,500 hardened criminals from Louisiana jails and send “dangerous thugs, drug dealers, back into our neighborhoods.”
Interestingly, the ad also contradicts what Vitter himself said on Oct. 1 in the WDSU-TV debate — which was one of only two live TV debates that Vitter attended during the primary. In response to a query about legalizing marijuana, Vitter said, “We warehouse way too many nonviolent criminals in Louisiana.”
That’s precisely the rationale for the bipartisan incarceration reforms that Edwards and every other major candidate for governor endorsed — along with high profile business, civic, religious and political leaders from both parties all across America.
Vitter’s ad was blasted as racist by columnist Bob Mann and the New Orleans NAACP, which demanded that Vitter take it down. The latter criticism is probably just what Vitter wanted — black people attacking him. That scenario plays into Vitter’s strategy of making the runoff a race about race. It remains to be seen if that strategy will work.
In the latest twist of Spygate, the ongoing controversy about Sen. David Vitter’s use of a private investigator to trail at least two private citizens that Vitter apparently deems a threat to his gubernatorial candidacy, Team Vitter is now claiming that the senator is the victim and not the perpetrator. That’s a stretch, but considering the controversy that Vitter finds himself in these days, he has to do something to deflect the adverse attention he’s getting.
On Monday, a Super PAC supporting John Bel Edwards sent a “tracker” to a Vitter fundraiser at a Lafayette restaurant. It was a case of “turnabout is fair play” in that the Vitter campaign has been using trackers to shadow and record the senator’s main opponents (particularly Edwards and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne) since the early days of summer, if not before.
Unlike the Vitter PI in the Royal Blend coffee shop last week, the Edwards tracker made it quite obvious what he was doing in Lafayette. The Edwards tracker’s camera was not disguised as a cell phone; it was mounted on a large tripod. No one could possibly have failed to notice the guy’s presence or what he was doing. In fact, he greeted Vitter very respectfully outside the restaurant and never got close enough to Vitter to record any conversations. See the tracker's entire video HERE — and note Vitter's reaction.
At the Royal Blend, Vitter’s PI was pretending to be a customer at the next table. He did not let anyone know that he was recording and he definitely was trying to record conversations, not just videotape who was there, according to several witnesses. Moreover, the Vitter PI used what Sheriff Newell Normand described as a “sophisticated device that was disguised as a cell phone, and he was pretending to be talking or listening on the cell phone when in fact he was actually videotaping and listening to our conversation.”
The differences between Edwards’s tracker and Vitter’s PI don’t end there.
For months, David Vitter was the prohibitive frontrunner. He has name recognition, political clout, a plethora of cash, and a state whose demographics increasingly favor conservative Republicans. But this is a unique political climate. Jindal, one of the worst governors in the history of the state, has made toxic everything he touched, including the Republican brand. Running as a Republican gubernatorial candidate after Jindal was always going to be tricky. In addition to that, Vitter, as James Carville told Salon recently, is “one of the most flawed candidates in American politics.”—
Louisiana’s statewide primary election on Oct. 24 provided lots of fireworks and a few surprises. In the governor’s race, state Rep. John Bel Edwards garnered an impressive 40 percent of the vote while erstwhile frontrunner David Vitter sputtered into second place with a mere 23 percent. Given the events and revelations of the primary’s final 10 days, if the election were this coming Saturday instead of this past Saturday, Vitter might have finished out of the money entirely. Timing is everything.
Here are the unofficial returns, according to the Secretary of State’s office:
John Bel Edwards, 40 percent
David Vitter, 23 percent
Scott Angelle, 19 percent
Jay Dardenne, 15 percent
All others, 3 percent
Before I dissect Saturday’s returns, I want to say that the gubernatorial runoff is anything but a foregone conclusion. Edwards’s strong finish gives him needed momentum going into the four-week runoff (the general election is Nov. 21), but anyone who underestimates David Vitter is a fool. Louisiana’s senior senator may be the most disliked politician in the state, but he’s also the most capable when it comes to waging electoral combat. And while Edwards clearly has momentum on his side, history in on Vitter’s side. Louisiana hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2008.
That could change by Nov. 21. Indeed, the Edwards-Vitter runoff will be the ultimate test of the notion that a Dem cannot win statewide in Louisiana. Edwards is as close as the Democrats can get to a perfect candidate for governor — West Point grad, U.S. Army Ranger and 82nd Airborne commander, solid legislative record, history of working well with Republicans as well as Democrats, Catholic, pro-life, pro-gun, rural but with appeal to urban voters. Vitter, meanwhile, is about the most flawed Republican you could imagine — disliked intensely even by members of his own party, self-righteous, hypocritical, ruthless, hounded by scandals (note the plural these days). If you tried to invent a tainted candidate, you’d be hard pressed to come up with somebody worse than Vitter.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter has no one to blame but himself for his current troubles relating to his alleged association with a New Orleans prostitute in the 1990s. He could have put all this nasty business behind him in July 2007, when he emerged from a week of hiding after being linked to the notorious “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey.
On July 16, 2007, with his wife at his side, a defiant Vitter admitted to a “serious sin” in his past but said he had sought and obtained forgiveness from God and his wife. Had he left it at that, all his “serious sins” would have been washed way.
Instead, Vitter threw down a gauntlet to his detractors and the media.
“[T]hose New Orleans stories in recent reporting,” he said, “Those stories are not true.”
At that time, the so-called “Canal Street Madam” Jeanette Maier had claimed that Vitter was a client of her brothel, and several media outlets picked up the story. Around that same time, I was shown a copy of Maier’s hand-written client list by someone with knowledge of the case. Vitter’s name is not on it — something I’ve said publicly many times.
Other stories persisted, one in particular: A woman identified as Wendy Cortez (now known as Wendy Ellis) told Hustler magazine that she had serviced Vitter for at least four months. The Times-Picayune verified that she passed a polygraph exam. Vitter refused to take a polygraph, and he consistently has refused to discuss the allegation.
And so his detractors continued to dig, and dig, and dig.
Our initial story about Sen. David Vitter’s alleged mistress accusing him of impregnating her and then telling her to get an abortion was pulled this morning (Oct. 18) when we received court documents that conflict with parts of a story published by Jason Brad Berry of the American Zombie investigative blog.
This story is an update. The bottom line is this: There are holes in parts of the woman’s story, but this remains largely a “she said/he said” tale that may never be proved totally true or totally false. Vitter is not commenting, nor is anyone from his campaign for governor.
Political polls are getting a lot of attention in the race for Louisiana governor. Everybody likes to get “inside” information, but too often people look at polls as if they were crystal balls — magical devices able to divine the future. Polls do not predict the future. Never have, never will.
Want proof? Consider former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He led his GOP challenger by nearly 30 percentage points in the polls before losing the primary. Were the polls wrong? No. They just weren’t predictors of a future event. Many of Cantor’s voters stayed home, while others turned against him in the final days.
Polls are snapshots in time. They render an accurate picture of voters’ attitudes and opinions at a particular moment. They do not predict what those attitudes and opinions will be a week or two later, let alone months later.
Think of it this way: An election is like a football game, and a poll is like a photograph of the scoreboard at the end of the first quarter or at halftime. It accurately shows who’s ahead at that particular point in time — but it does not predict who will win in the end. This past Sunday's Saints-Cowboys game is a perfect example.
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