With all due respect, some of my colleagues have not thoroughly thought through the notion that incumbent Sen. David Vitter’s reelection campaign faces any real trouble, and in doing so unwittingly play into the media template that Vitter will have great difficulty, or even lose, that bid.
As recently analyzed, drawing new Republican and independent opposition by the time filing ended last week hardly changes the dynamics that make Vitter’s reelection almost a sure thing. Unfortunately, my colleagues did not seem to catch that piece, as one thinks former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor can be a major competitor to Vitter for the GOP nomination, buffered by recent personnel turmoil on Vitter’s staff, while another believes state Rep. Ernest Wooton’s entry into the general election disproportionately can harm Vitter.
Both claims are dubious at best. To win a Senate major party nomination, much less an entire campaign, you need a lot of money, planning, and ability to contrast favorably against your opponent to the majority of voters. Traylor indicates part of what got him to enter the contest, after some encouragement he testifies by others, was the incident where a Vitter staffer was revealed to have been accused of holding against her will a woman and inflicting injury on her in 2008 but which only came to light in the past month (along with the coming to light of other past legal run-ins about which Vitter had not known).
This shows that Traylor only recently decided to go for it – which means he won’t have much money and little time (now less than six weeks) to embark on this major effort. Compounding his difficulties is that it’s a contest to see whether statewide even one percent of the voting public know about the problem with Vitter’s staffer or know who Traylor is, who left office about two years ago. It takes months of steady campaigning to build name recognition to be competitive, and Traylor will have about a month with, at this time, few resources to do it. By contrast, 94 percent of the public has an opinion about Vitter, of which 62 percent see him favorably. Given that Vitter and Traylor probably won’t differ much on issues it’s very difficult to see how Tarylor will be competitive for, much less win, the nomination.
(Traylor might be a bit better known in northeast Louisiana, where his district was. But oddly, when interviewed about the contest, Traylor apparently asserted he ran statewide for the seat and mentioned this as a strength of his candidacy. In fact, he was elected out of the Fourth Supreme Court District. Either the reporter completely got it wrong or Traylor is confused which certainly would not commend him as a U.S. Senator, even if a number of them particularly on the liberal side of the aisle do actually seem constantly confused.)
Wooton is said to be able to draw Republican votes and would be an alternative for conservative Republicans. Besides the fact that Wooton likewise has close to zero name recognition statewide, little in the way of campaign funds, and does not even seem to ponder campaigning seriously (remarking that he planned mainly an Internet-based campaign and as a result “I’ve got to learn how to Twitter”), Wooton has not had a conservative voting record in the House (a Louisiana Legislature Log score of 40 this year and averaging about 45 from 2005, where 100 is the most conservative/reform voting) and until a couple of years ago was a Democrat his entire elected career. Plus, he lives in expected Democrat nominee Rep. Charlie Melancon’s district. Thus, it’s just as likely if not more so that he’d take votes from Melancon than from Vitter in the general election.
Despite all of this information, expect to see a spate of stories along these lines (and much less temperate if ill-informed ones) in the media until Vitter does, likely convincingly, win in November. If there’s one political figure less liked by most of the state’s media than Gov. Bobby Jindal, it’s Vitter who knows this and, to some degree like Jindal, makes noncooperation part of his strategy in dealing with them: he knows the media will run with any and every negative narrative about him, so he won’t give them potential ammunition, legitimacy, and relevance by his limiting communication with them. Which infuriates the media all the more because the one thing they loath to think of themselves as and be made is irrelevant.
Most in the media would enjoy a Vitter defeat, so any source information that confirms a template where this could happen is welcomed into dissemination by them. Whether the conclusions drawn from that data stand the test of validity or even use accurate information is another matter.