Depending on who you ask, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter is behind Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards anywhere between 8 and 20 points in the polls, and it’s hard to see any momentum shifting over to Team Vitter (with the exception of former Governor Mike Foster’s practically incoherent endorsement of David Vitter, noting, without any sense of irony, that Vitter offers the best chance at racial reconciliation, even though the senior Senator is quite famously running a campaign constructed on subtly stirring up racial divisions).
As I mentioned earlier this week, the Vitter campaign has spent more than $8,000 funding a radically right and publicly bigoted blogger, ostensibly for small banner ads, who, on both his Facebook and his website, has compared Vitter’s opponent- a veteran and a West Point grad- to an American-born Islamic terrorist.
Yesterday, in the hallowed grounds of LSU’s Free Speech Alley, Republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne broke ranks with his political party and endorsed Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards for Louisiana governor. “I never took that oath (at West Point),” the Lt. Governor said, “but I have spent twenty-seven years in public service attempting to prove what I said in my very first election: that the term ‘honest’ politician’ doesn’t have to be a contradiction in terms.”
“Honor, integrity, truthfulness, openness and ethical behavior are the most important traits of public service,” Dardenne continued, flanked by his wife and members of his campaign staff. “John Bel Edwards is the candidate who exemplifies these traits. I know better than anybody that just because David Vitter and his Super PAC say something on TV doesn’t make it true. I have come to know and respect John Bel during this campaign. I have done my due diligence. I have talked with him extensively regarding the issues that are important to me and the state.”
“I believe (Edwards) when he tells me he will not be controlled by those who want to turn back the clock in Louisiana,” Dardenne says. “He will not seek to undo strides that have been made in education with charter schools and vouchers. He will not be the enemy of business. He will not seek to solve our serious budget problems by penalizing a particular industry. He recognizes that LSU and all of higher education is the key to continued economic prosperity. He recognizes that he formerly represented an overwhelmingly Democrat district but that he must deal with a Republican control legislature. He knows that fear, intimidation and vindictiveness are the enemies of building a coalition to move Louisiana forward. He will govern in a bipartisan way based on what’s best for Louisiana without regard to how it plays to a national audience.”
Jay Dardenne saved his most memorable lines for last:
“The Republican brand,” he said, “has been damaged by the failed leadership of Bobby Jindal in his second term. A David Vitter governorship will further damage our brand as I and others have pointed out during the campaign.”
“I cannot and will not sit idly by and refuse to speak truth to power. I will support an honorable pro-life, pro-gun Democrat who can build coalitions and whose values best reflect those of our great state.”
Dardenne’s endorsement was a major coup for Edwards and a major disappointment for Vitter.
Meanwhile, supporters of fellow Republican challenger Scott Angelle, announced they will be hosting a top-dollar fundraiser for John Bel Edwards in Lafayette. “We are replacing Scott’s blue signs with John Bel’s blue signs,” a person close to the Angelle campaign reported to me earlier. “His entire family, even his godchildren, are opposed to Sen. Vitter.” Angelle may make the decision to reluctantly endorse Vitter, according to Jeremy Alford, but thus far, it seems utterly unlikely. Angelle, according to sources close to him, wants to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, and he likely understands that, in a heads-up match, he would crush Vitter.
“People are critical of me switching over to the Edwards side,” said a Dardenne loyalist on the condition of anonymity. “Is that what Republicans said about David Duke in 1991? That party mattered more than principle? It’s the same thing here.”
David Vitter is currently between 8-20 points behind John Bel Edwards, and Edwards is quietly and deftly emerging as the consensus candidate.
If Vitter is to rebound and find a miracle in the next two weeks, I suggest he consult with his friend at The Hayride, who is constantly peddling products that claim to be miracle cures. Though there is still not yet an adequate cure for late-term electoral despondency. Nope, even spooking people about the black President named Obama had an expiration date, even in Louisiana.