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• LA-Gov: Whether Team Red likes it or not, Sen. David Vitter is their gubernatorial nominee. On Saturday, Louisiana voters went to the polls for the jungle primary and unsurprisingly, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards grabbed the first runoff spot with 40 percent of the vote. However, Vitter only beat Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, a fellow Republican, 23-19 for the other runoff spot; GOP Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne took fourth place with 15 percent. The Vitter-Angelle battle was closer than most pollsters predicted: Only Market Research Insight showed Angelle within striking distance of Vitter in October.
Louisiana is a dark red state and Edwards won’t have an easy time winning on Nov. 21, but Vitter may have just what it takes to lose it all. The senator started 2015 with good favorable ratings, and it appeared that he’d put his
prostitution scandal behind him. However, two anti-Vitter super PACs have been airing ads reminding voters that there are still plenty of unanswered questions about Vitter’s past. Both Angelle and Dardenne also argued that Vitter can’t be trusted. The attacks have taken a toll on Vitter: Polls show his ratings are in the toilet and give Edwards a lead (sometimes a huge one) in the runoff. So far, Angelle has not endorsed either runoff candidate, and Dardenne recently said that he wouldn’t be endorsing anyone.
Vitter’s string of bad press isn’t over. On Friday, a private investigator named Robert Frenzel was arrested after he allegedly tried to record a gathering hosted by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand at a cafe outside New Orleans, then fled and tried to hide in an abandoned house when confronted. Vitter’s camp says that Frenzel was doing research on a “John Bel Edwards’ business associate and major donor,” which of course wouldn’t make his behavior look any less dodgy. And while Bayou politics are always bizarre, local politicos have exploded with disgust and disbelief over this episode.
However, Vitter has one big advantage. Barack Obama has never been popular in this conservative state, and Vitter is wasting no time linking Edwards to the president. The RGA recently spent $1 million on ads arguing that a vote for Edwards is a vote for Obama, and they’re likely to spend more as Nov. 21 approaches. Plenty of red state Democrats have run against unpopular Republicans, but lost once the GOP convinced voters that Obama was the greater of the two evils. It’s up to Edwards to do what so many Democrats couldn’t do and withstand these attacks, and make this election about his opponent rather than about national politics. Daily Kos Elections currently rates the runoff as Likely Republican, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on this contest.