The Other Debate: “Liar”, “Holier Than Thou”

Nov. 13, 2015 — Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate was not the only political forum attracting public attention. In Louisiana, gubernatorial candidates Sen. David Vitter (R) and state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) squared off in a televised medium in preparation for the Nov. 21 general election to elect a successor for term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

After both candidates were trying to distance themselves from the unpopular Jindal, to the point where it became Vitter attacking Edwards for supporting five of the Republican governor’s eight budgets, the debate’s end ignited verbal fire. It was then that the candidates tussled over tactics involving political trackers, private investigators, and a particularly controversial ad (above) that Edwards is running against Vitter, claiming he skipped a veterans vote in order to make contact with a prostitute. The negative ad is bold in today’s age of campaigning in that it comes directly from the Edwards political committee and not from an outside organization supporting the Democratic candidate.

Vitter attacks Edwards for being “holier than thou” in claiming the outside organization Democratic trackers and investigators are not associated with the campaign and provided him no benefit. Edwards retaliated saying that he won’t take down his veterans’ ad, and the reason that Vitter thinks the spot is a “low blow” is “because that’s where you live.” Vitter then claimed Edwards is not living by his military code of ethics because he won’t take responsibility for what Vitter believes is the state Democratic Party’s unethical campaign tactics, while the state Representative fired back that the Republican senator is “a liar and a cheater, and I won’t tolerate that.”

The ad brings the Vitter 2007 prostitution front and center in this 2015 campaign. In the script, Edwards, a former Army Ranger, accuses Vitter of taking a call from a prostitute “minutes after skipping a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom.”

There is no question this campaign is trending badly for Vitter, and he well may be in an irreversible downward political spiral. Three polls have been released since the Oct. 24 primary, and each shows Edwards holding substantial leads. The closest poll, from Triumph Campaigns, finds a 49-41 percent Edwards’ advantage. The other two, from Louisiana pollster JMC Analytics and Polling and Florida-based Market Research Insight, find the Democrat exceeding majority preference with Vitter in the mid-30s.

University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics has now rated the Louisiana governor’s race as a Toss-up from Lean Republican, citing the Kentucky governor’s race that went strongly for the GOP candidate when polling suggested a different outcome. A more realistic rating, however, considering the most recent trends about the individual candidates in this particular race, would be Lean Democratic.

The Louisiana campaign is heating up, and we can expect it to become Cajun hot before we reach Election Day a week from this coming Saturday.

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