Jeffrey D. Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. If you're an elected official, political operative or anyone else upset at his views, don't go bothering LSUS or LSU System officials about that because these are his own views solely.
This publishes Sunday through Thursday with the exception of 7 holidays. Also check out his Louisiana Legislature Log especially during legislative sessions (in "Louisiana Politics Blog Roll" below).
Release of various data make clearer the direction and strategy being employed in Louisiana’s Senate contest this fall, confirming the one-sidedness of the race and shedding some light on the tactics involved.
There’s no reason to change the assessment that Republican incumbent Sen. David Vitter has clear sailing to winning reelection. Federal Election Commission pre-primary election finance reports due yesterday with data through Aug. 8 show Vitter took in over a half a million dollars, leaving him with 10 times that amount available. Leading Democrat challenger Rep. Charlie Melancon took in only less than half of that, leaving him with about 40 percent of the funds Vitter has on hand. It’s enough for Melancon to hang on competitively, but to claw back as much as a 20 percent point deficit, especially consider Vitter’s totals it’s not nearly enough. (The FEC did not have the latest figures available as of this posting: the New Orleans Times-Picayune appears to have gotten copies of candidate’s reports.)
Vitter’s main GOP challenger former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor raised just around $42,000, ending any speculation that his was a viable candidacy. The rule of thumb is that for a House of Representatives contest the typical challenger needs a minimum of $500,000 to be at all competitive, and for the Senate in a state like Louisiana a minimum of $1 million. Having a little over $40,000 with almost none spent three weeks out from a primary isn’t going to cut it. Confirming that judgment, a Southern Media and Opinion Research poll gave Vitter a 76-5 percent lead over Traylor for the GOP nomination. (Even a push poll conducted on behalf of Traylor’s campaign reported by a media company that endorsed Traylor showed him well behind Vitter.)
These data only will intensify the debate about Traylor’s real motive for entering the contest. As previously noted, it’s now clear that he had no major funding support at the time he made the decision to enter it and he must have known with the present legal situation around him and with having next to no differences in issue preferences with Vitter and name recognition there simply was no way he could win. Thus, this fuels speculation that Traylor entered simply as a stalking horse to assist Melancon by getting a chance to sling mud at Vitter and intended to divide Vitter’s resources.
However, with Traylor’s amount that wouldn’t be competitive in many state House contests much less statewide, Vitter safely can ignore him and he will get little chance to sling mud or do anything else. It also makes murkier the question of whether he is a stalking horse, which might have been demonstrated easily had many typical Democrat donors and/or donors also for Melancon had been on his contributor list. As it is, hardly anybody is there anyway so it would be hard to tell either for or against this hypothesis.
If a stalking horse, Melancon’s backers might have figured with their man being beaten so decisively in the money game and with Traylor off to such a poor public relations start, that they needed to conserve their resources for direct support of Melancon after the primary (limits are per election, and primary and general elections are separate) and/or money simply would be wasted on a Traylor candidacy. If so, the gambit clearly has failed and Vitter continues on the path to reelection where he can lose only by beating himself.