Vitter’s Future on the Line as Louisiana Votes for Governor

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Democrats Try To End Drought In The South With Louisiana Governor Win.

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.—Louisiana voters decide Saturday whether to elect a Democrat to statewide office for the first time since 2008 in a close competition that has seen the Republican former front-runner, U.S. David Vitter is trying Saturday to win the state governor’s race and help his party keep its stronghold on state politics, but he trails his lesser-known Democratic challenger in a contest highlighted by scandal, big money and now the Syria refugee crisis. 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.

However, after months of attacks, include those about his 2007 prostitution scandal, Vitter barely defeated his two Republican challengers in last month’s open primary and finished second behind Edwards by roughly 14 percentage points. 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. John Bel Edwards hopes to upend the conventional wisdom that the conservative, typically red state will consistently back Republicans for statewide positions. 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.

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. And when Vitter entered the race in January 2014 as the frontrunner, he was pulling in tremendous sums of campaign cash and firing up a dominant political machine that he’s used to get himself and his allies regularly elected to Louisiana offices. 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. 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. After a false report surfaced that a male Syrian refugee had gone missing in Louisiana, the Vitter campaign began bombarding voters with robocalls warning that “hordes of Syrians would soon be invading the United States, thanks to Obama,” Tyler Bridges reports in the Washington Post. (Obama has ordered that the US quadruple the number of Syrian refugees – up to 10,000 – it resettles stateside in 2016.) As a result for the false report and robocalls, Edwards was forced to change his messaging on refugees mid-stream, saying he, too, would like to see a “pause” in resettlement.

At least $30 million was spent in the race, from candidates and outside groups who have played a larger role in this year’s competition than in prior state elections. 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. Edwards, who began his gubernatorial bid as a little-known lawmaker from rural Tangipahoa Parish, responded to the spike in Vitter’s disapproval ratings with a campaign built on personal integrity, a resume that includes a West Point degree and a tenure as an Army Ranger, and pledges that he’d run a moderate administration built on bipartisanship. “This election is too critical. 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.

And a pro-Edwards superPAC fired back with an ad saying it was Vitter who had in the past downplayed the threat from Syria and skipped Senate hearings on the issue. 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. This week, he’s ramped up the effort, using the Paris terrorist attacks and the national debate over Syrian refugee resettlement to claim that Edwards would help Obama bring a flood of refugees to Louisiana, which received 14 so far, according to federal figures. As Buzzfeed’s John Stanton reported, one of the events was moved from outside of the Catholic Charities’ refugee assistance office to the steps of the capitol in Baton Rouge.

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. 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. In the last debate ahead of the Saturday election, Edwards described Vitter as lacking a “moral compass” and called him a “hypocrite.” Vitter said Edwards can’t be trusted and would choose Obama over the people of Louisiana. 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.

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.

Edwards was misrepresenting a record filled with votes supporting teacher unions and trial lawyers and opposing business interests and education reform efforts. “His campaign is built on a myth that he is some sort of a conservative, that we don’t differ on the issues, when we definitely do,” Mr. The candidates did little to mask their distaste for each other in the two televised runoff debates, both of which escalated into near shouting matches at various points.

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