Louisiana Choosing a New Governor in Surprisingly Close Race

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 things you need to know this weekend.

The bitter mudslinging campaign for Louisiana governor will come to a head Saturday, closing out a contest that’s dredged up one candidate’s past with prostitutes and most recently turned on whether to admit Syrian refugees into the state.Charges and countercharges involving thugs, terrorists, prostitutes and spies have dominated the raucous final stretch of a Louisiana governor’s race that was, until recently, expected to be an easy victory for Republican Sen.

David Vitter (R-La.) wins today’s runoff election for governor of Louisiana, it will be the second time in a month that a Republican defied public polls to walk into a state house. It has been a crazy Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff through nine weeks, with the weird and wacky becoming the norm (rain-shortened races, restarts, crashes).

But it would be the first time an election clearly turned on the issue of Syrian refugees being allowed into the United States — and it would overcome the almost unheard-of factor of an incumbent governor apparently trying to sink his own party’s nominee. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) concluded a years-long blood feud with Vitter by ending his presidential campaign on Tuesday. “You can’t get anyone to admit it, but it’s what everyone thinks,” said Julia O’Donoghue, the state politics reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We spent two days talking about refugees and then two days talking about Jindal. Named as a client in in 2007 the prostitution ring, he apologized back then for a “serious sin” with his wife by his side and won reelection three years later. The election in Louisiana is Saturday. “A few weeks ago, most everyone expected Edwards would pull off the upset,” writes National Public Radio’s Jessica Taylor. “But now it wouldn’t be as much of a surprise if Vitter does escape and win the race.” One reason: From Kentucky to now in Louisiana, Republicans have been able to exploit a deep – and, some allege, racially tinged –dislike of President Obama and his policies, including the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), the Democrat-led expansion of subsidized health insurance.

In a last minute appeal before Saturday’s election, Vitter is hoping that portraying his Democratic opponent, John Bel Edwards, as soft on crime and Syrian terrorists will help him overcome what polls show is a sizable deficit. Up to this point, the election narrative in Louisiana had been that after defeats in Kentucky in November and Georgia last year, a Democrat, albeit an almost extinct variety called a Blue Dog, had a real shot at breaking up the Republicans’ red state monopoly. At stake for Vitter is not just the governor’s race but, possibly, his political future: A decisive loss could imperil his chances of winning a third term in the Senate next year. “Voters might just say they’re done with him,” said Roy Fletcher, a longtime Louisiana political consultant. “Maybe there will be blood in the water.” Vitter has won seven elections in a row and has shown, throughout his career, an ability to do what it takes to win – both for him and his allies.

Within a day, Vitter was up with a TV ad accusing Edwards of wanting to work with President Obama — whose toxicity Vitter had previously tried and failed to pour on the Democrat — and let in refugees. Last year, for instance, he pushed aside other would-be contenders to guide then-representative Bill Cassidy to a 12-point victory to seize Mary Landrieu’s seat in the U.S. Edwards lead went up by two percentage points in the polls, to a 22-point margin. “A larger question looms,” writes Jason Berry in the Daily Beast: “If the margin holds, does the Edwards surge signal a sputtering of the Republican Southern strategy that exploits racial division by demonizing President Obama?” But as it now appears the margin has narrowed, the reasons underscore perhaps less race but the profound emotions swirling around America’s role in the Syrian refugee crisis, especially after at least one terrorist was able to attack Paris last Friday after joining a phalanx of refugees from the brutal Syrian civil war.

Some of the attackers, it turns out, had joined the refugee stream to cross into France, prompting more than 30 US governors to demand that Syrians stay out of their states. He accused Edwards of believing that immigration from the region should still be allowed after the Democrat wrote that he would work to “accommodate refugees” in a Facebook post; that was later edited to indicate he supported a “pause” due to security concerns. Instead of spending Wednesday covering the gubernatorial race, the media covered Jindal and his failed presidential bid, and it kept covering him as he suddenly proposed a fix to the $500 million budget gap that had helped drive down his popularity in the state. Spanish authorities have declared Saturday’s game between Real Madrid and Barcelona a high-risk event with double the usual security presence for high-risk games.

After all, just this week, 58 percent of Americans , including 40 percent of Democrats, told Reuters/Ipsos pollsters they no longer “identify with what the country has become.” The national focus on legalizing gay marriage – the trend by states to legalize marijuana – run counter to the weight of public opinion in many corners of the country. Security will be heightened for the NFL’s Panthers-Redskins game on Sunday and in college sports, North Carolina State has announced increased security precautions for its final two games against Syracuse and North Carolina. On Tuesday, conservative websites quoted Vitter saying that one of the 14 Syrian refugees in Louisiana was missing and thought to be on his way to Washington. A recent survey found that non-college educated white Americans, many of them in the South, had seen their middle-age mortality rise and life expectancy decrease since 1999. While blizzard conditions are not expected, cities such as Des Moines, Iowa, Chicago, Milwaukee, Wis., South Bend, Ind., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Detroit will all likely see several inches of snow, potentially leading to travel problems and flight delays the weekend before Thanksgiving, AccuWeather predicts.

The superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, Mike Edmonson, ultimately clarified the situation. “There is no missing Syrian,” he said in an interview, adding that the man in question successfully applied to resettle with his family in Washington. Such concerns were part of the narrative in the Kentucky gubernatorial election earlier this month, where Republican Matt Bevin beat Democrat Jack Conway by nine points, becoming only the second Republican governor of the Blue Grass State in 40 years. Edwards is the type of Democrat that should be able to win in the conservative state — his ads have stressed his opposition to abortion and support for gun rights, and he’s also opposed to gay marriage. The overriding issue throughout the race has been the resurrection of Vitter’s 2007 admission that he had committed a “very serious sin” a half-dozen years earlier in connection with the “D.C. Early voting, which ended before the Paris attacks, produced an electorate that was slightly more black and more Democratic than the election’s first round.

Vitter thought he had put the scandal behind him when voters reelected him overwhelmingly to the Senate in 2010, but a Baton Rouge law firm spent nearly $2 million on attack ads reminding voters of the scandal. But the polls that had Edwards clobbering Vitter by up to 22 points assumed that the Democrat would win twice as many white voters as former senator Mary Landrieu did in her losing reelection bid one year earlier. But Republicans have looked to tie the Democrat to President Obama at every turn — a strategy that have worked time and again, and did in Kentucky too. The state still leans Republican, and if those voters come out for Vitter while Democrats and African-Americans that Edwards needs don’t show up, the partisan edge could be too much to overcome.

With Jindal’s approval rating down to 20 percent in a recent statewide poll, Edwards has repeatedly said that a victory by Vitter would mean a continuation of Jindal’s policies. Edwards, 49, who comes from a long line of sheriffs in rural Tangipahoa Parish, graduated from West Point and commanded paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. During a debate between the two men Monday that turned into a verbal brawl, Edwards said, “I don’t try to give 100 percent to anyone other than my wife,” and added that Vitter ought to emulate him. But it’s only recently that her husband has felt he had to address the issue more directly with voters. “Fifteen years ago, I faced my darkest day in life when I had to look my kids in the eye and tell them how badly I’d failed my family,” Vitter said during his closing statement Monday night. “What they gave me in return was the best day of my life, when they and Wendy offered complete love and forgiveness.

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