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Absent Vitter blunder, Melancon Senate chances gone

You might write it off as a fluke owing to sample size, method, etc. or not compelling if one poll gives a candidate even a decent-sized lead 10 months from an election. But when two give a Louisiana candidate with the field essentially to himself for the Senate an average of a 19 point lead and an average of over half the electorate intending to vote/support him – especially an incumbent Republican – the race is over.

Republican Sen. David Vitter finds himself in this enviable position as a Rasmussen poll of likely voters by phone and a YouGov/Politmetrix Internet poll of likely voters put him solidly ahead of Democrat U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon. This is the largest lead registered by one major-party candidate over another in almost two decades in the state, before Senate races started to field competitive Republicans. Also favoring Vitter is that it’s been eight decades since an incumbent lost in Louisiana and, in the competitive era, no Senate candidate with such a lead ever has lost.

Add to that the darkening red shade of Louisiana statewide electoral politics and it might be a long, lonely, and resource-poor interval for Melancon as he beats his head against this brick wall. It’s difficult to think of any normal scenario where Melancon could pull this out given these numbers and must be stoking up the heartburn among himself and his campaign staff.

For example, what if the election of Republican Scott Brown from Massachusetts to the Senate, flipping the seat, stops radical health care reform in its tracks? Without that shoved down an unwilling American people’s throats, that issue goes off the table and Melancon won’t have to deal with that toxicity? Not really, because Vitter will remind all he was right from the start while Melancon had to be dragged kicking and screaming to starting over.

Or if Obama suddenly came to his senses and began to try to govern from the center instead of the far left? No, Vitter gets the credit for opposition that he can legitimately claim pulled Obama in that direction, while Melancon becomes an enabler for votes such as for the spending bill that has done nothing positive to the economy and hiked debt up to previously-unimaginable levels.

(As a side note, with Secretary of State Jay Dardenne announcing that he won’t contest Vitter for the GOP nomination, that would indicate Dardenne may be seriously contemplating getting into the lieutenant governor’s chair if, as he is predicted to do, current holder Mitch Landrieu wins the New Orleans mayoralty. His odds would have been better than Melancon’s but still long and the expense huge, so this comes as no real surprise regardless of whether a vacancy will come soon.)

As always, a lot can happen in a little under 300 days. But the facts are if anybody is going to come back from 20-point deficits in 2010 elections, it’s not going to be a Democrat. Numbers and history show that, unless Vitter is crazy enough to commit another “serious sin,” what once was considered a possible Democrat pickup opportunity has vanished.

1 comment:

macaoidh said...

At this point you'd have to say not only will Melancon get beat, unless Vitter makes a major mistake (and he hasn't done so since the 2007 nastiness which purportedly made him vulnerable in the first place) it's likely Melancon performs worse in the election than he does in this poll. The DNC isn't going to support him with any money, and Vitter's fundraising has been sensational.

I would argue that, particularly if the Republicans come close to running the table in Senate races this fall and land some Pat Toomeys, Mario Rubios Chuck DeVores and Michael Williamses in the Senate, there is a good chance that Vitter will find himself in a quite powerful position within the party's caucus and possibly even chairing a committee if they get a majority. He's supposedly not all that well liked, but his conservative credentials are strong and he's increasingly a favorite among the Tea Party crowd. My guess is that the future of Senate Republicans belongs to the Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns of the world, and Vitter is cut from that cloth.

BTW, Jeff - e-mail me at when you get a chance; I've got an item or two to bounce off you.