It’s always pleasing to read what my colleagues in the profession have to say about matters (why I was not asked about this particular topic probably is due to this), but at the same time on some things somewhat sharper judgment is required, which I’m happy to provide.
In this discussion about Louisiana’s U.S. Senate contest, more than one implied that the ideologies of Republican incumbent Sen. David Vitter and Democrat challenger Rep. Charlie Melancon were not that distinct, one arguing that it’s about “two men with somewhat the same vision of government” and another asserting that "If you look at their records, they're similar …. "Rep. Melancon is a conservative.” The data support neither proposition.
Looking at the American Conservative Union’s voting scorecard for the two politicians, in 2009 Vitter voted as a perfect conservative and has an almost perfectly conservative lifetime rating of 94. On the other side of the mirror, with the scorecard of the Americans for Democratic Action, in 2009 Vitter got a 10. Contrast this with Melancon, who in 2009 got from the ACU a 27 with a lifetime score of 42, while the ADA graded him out at 60. At the very best, one could call Melancon a moderate liberal, but in no way is he a “conservative.” Nor can the gulf in their records mean that “they’re similar” or have “the same vision of government.”
Failing to understand this risks an inability to understand where the race is going and why it will turn out as it does. As previously noted, Vitter is a solid conservative in a conservative majority state, and with the bonus of this election cycle being favorable to such candidates because of the unfavorable policy consequences attached to the hard left governance of Pres. Barack Obama, the only way (how many times must this be written in this space) Vitter will lose is by committing an enormous blunder. The differences in policy preferences and records simply are too great for Melancon to try successfully to obscure.
Not realizing this leads another of my colleagues to stray in stating, “If Vitter didn't have so many problems, this should not be a close race.” Again, the facts speak otherwise: this is not a close race. For well over a year, every independent poll has Vitter with a very large lead, and even Democrat-run ones give Vitter a large lead well outside the margin of error. The race is not close, Vitter is winning going away, and will continue to do so unless he makes some kind of incredible blunder.
In trying correctly to understand a phenomenon such as this contest, judgment must have solid factual basis. I’m glad to contribute in improving this understanding.