Morning Digest: As Edwards weathers the storm, our Louisiana rating moves to ‘Lean Republican’

Louisiana Democrat John Bel Edwards

Louisiana Democrat John Bel Edwards has a real chance to paint the governor’s mansion blue

Leading Off:
LA-Gov: It wasn’t long ago that David Vitter was the undisputed frontrunner to become Louisiana’s next governor, sure to dominate his rivals—Republican and Democrat alike—in both the primary and the runoff. But the bayou is often full of political surprises, and things sure haven’t worked out the way Vitter planned and everyone else expected.

Vitter, of course, is infamous for appearing in the little black book of the notorious “D.C. Madam,” Deborah Jean Palfrey, who operated a call girl ring in the nation’s capital back in the aughts. When busted in 2007, Vitter apologized for his “sin” but did not resign, because doing so would have allowed Louisiana’s Democratic governor at the time, Kathleen Blanco, to appoint a successor. Vitter also knew he had three years until his

re-election campaign, which should have been more than enough time for voters to either forget or forgive.

And indeed, it looked as though they had. Vitter won a dominant 57-38 victory over Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon in 2010, and while he was surely aided by that year’s GOP wave, he also eviscerated a former state supreme court justice who challenged him in the primary by an 88-7 margin. Seemingly secure in office, Vitter emerged as the top force in Republican politics in Louisiana, thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s deep unpopularity and Vitter’s own efforts to help elect a phalanx of state legislators loyal to him.

That put Vitter in top position to succeed the term-limited Jindal this year, and polls throughout the campaign showed him far ahead of his two Republican rivals, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle. State Rep. John Bel Edwards, as the only prominent Democrat running, was always likely to earn a spot in the runoff, but there was every reason to expect Vitter would make short work of him in this deeply conservative state.

But it turned out that Vitter’s prostitution scandal was not safely in the past—not at all. Head below the fold to find out what went wrong for him, and why Democrats may be able to capitalize next month.

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