David Vitter's loss in Louisiana isn't an upset

David Vitter’s loss in Louisiana isn’t as shocking as the media want to make it out. Reuters proclaimed last night’s win by Jack Bel Edwards “an upset,” while NPR suggested it “disrupts partisan politics tradition.” Even Jazz was a little surprised by Vitter’s loss. But a comparison between the Governor’s race and the Lt. Governor’s race shows something pretty interesting.


This really appears to be more of Louisiana voters saying, “No” to Vitter, than “Yes” to Edwards. The turnout stats also show 20K more people voted in the gubernatorial race, so it’s possible these were people who just showed up to vote against Vitter. Jazz has suggested this was a repudiation of the unpopular Bobby Jindal, but National Journal pointed out in February the two politicians don’t like each other at all (emphasis mine).

Vit­ter is rip­ping Jin­dal’s Louisi­ana leg­acy at a time that Jin­dal is hop­ing to use it as a spring­board his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. Jin­dal is re­fus­ing to en­dorse Vit­ter””he says he won’t en­dorse any­one in the primary””and members of his polit­ic­al team are in­stead throw­ing in with one of the sen­at­or’s Re­pub­lic­an rivals.

The pair’s poor re­la­tion­ship dates back to 2007, when Jin­dal was in the midst of his second run for gov­ernor and Vit­ter was caught up in the D.C. Madam pros­ti­tu­tion scan­dal. Jin­dal made no ef­fort to de­fend Vit­ter then, and three years later, the rift was ce­men­ted when Jin­dal de­clined to en­dorse Vit­ter dur­ing his 2010 bid to keep his Sen­ate seat.

So Vitter and Jindal were never really pals, and the animosity seemed to keep building and building over the years. The prostitution scandal may not seem like a big deal to some, but here in the South we prefer our candidates to be trustworthy. Remember how big of a deal Mark Sanford was in South Carolina? It’s a bit of a similar situation with Vitter, especially when family values are such a big deal. Louisiana-based blog The Hayride made a pretty good point on Sunday, by writing people in Louisiana “simply can’t stand the guy.”

The main source for voter hatred of Vitter, the 15-year old extramarital behavior which came to light in 2007, didn’t defeat him then. But the constant drumbeat of “hookers, hookers, hookers” and “hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite” in this election created an insurmountable gender gap and wiped out his chances of getting the job he always wanted.

It probably isn’t just the 2007 prostitution scandal which caused voters to turn on Vitter. He ran into a bit of an issue last month when a Vitter-connected private investigator was caught recording a couple political foes. From The Times-Picayune.

The Dallas private investigator accused of eavesdropping on a café conversation between Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand and some friends taped the discussion using an audio recorder and a spy camera designed to look like a cell phone, Normand said Saturday (Oct. 24).

Sheriff’s Office detectives have executed warrants to view the seven-minute video  Robert Frenzel recorded on Friday morning at a Metairie coffee shop and to search his phones and cars as they piece together evidence to get a warrant for violation of the state’s laws against intercepting communications, Normand said.

That’s just a completely bizarre situation which may have been a factor in Vitter’s loss as well. There’s no doubt politics can be a bloodsport, but hiring someone to secretly record political foes seems kind of over the top. This really seems to be a situation of a bad candidate not being able to win. The Hayride also pointed out Vitter’s campaign seemed to only be focused on his base and not bothering to come up with some coalition. That’s possible, but the way the GOP was splintered in the primary was a factor as well. This isn’t Texas where last year’s lieutenant governor’s race was an extremely bitter contest, but mostly everyone was able to agree on a candidate. This was a case where the GOP went to war with each other and the Democrats ended up winning (even if Jack Bel Edwards seems pretty conservative). It will certainly make the next four years more interesting because the Louisiana legislature is heavily Republican. The Louisiana GOP is still confident things will be okay, even if the governor’s race didn’t go as they’d hoped.

Despite a disappointing result in the gubernatorial race, we’re confident that our Republican Legislature and activists across the state will hold Governor-elect Edwards accountable to his campaign promises of not raising taxes, protecting school choice and defending our conservative family values. Edwards espoused many of our conservative positions in order to get elected, and it’s our hope that he continues to abide by them as he governs. The Republican Party will vigilantly defend our bold conservative reforms as we work with the Legislature to continue to move our state forward, grow our economy and strengthen our families.”

There are probably lessons to be learned here, the first one being don’t make bad candidates your nominee. But it also means candidates need to explain their agenda better, especially if it’s going to be a more free market strategy vs. traditional politics. Messaging is key which is something Republican candidates need to do a better job at. It still makes things interesting in the South. If Edwards stays pretty close to a Republican, then it may be eight years of Democrats in the governor’s mansion and maybe beyond. If Edwards swings towards being the traditional leftist Democrat, then the GOP may get back into the mansion in four.