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Political careers wax, wane, or vanish in LA elections

As of tonight’s results in Louisiana, one political career got a permanent boost, another was thrown into question, and a third likely ended too soon.

Commentators were too quick to dismiss Republican Sen. David Vitter’s career when in July, 2007 he admitted to commission of a “serious sin” believed related to interacting with a prostitution ring. Thereafter, he essentially refused to speak of the situation and when the campaign came for his reelection he focused on issues compared to his opponents and fought back with assertions of their foibles. Dictating the terms of the campaign, he won convincingly.

Because his opponents relentlessly tried to remind voters of the admission and to build a case connecting other actions of his to make Vitter appear untrustworthy and generally immoral and failed spectacularly in the minds of voters, his margin of victory especially means Vitter now has become inoculated from these charges. Louisiana Democrats must be particularly galled that the result has removed this presumed issue from the field of play (unless Vitter propagates a future scandal) for 2016 or beyond if Vitter wants to continue serving as senator. This job he has locked down for life, barring some ethical slipup.

The defeat of newcomer to running for office Caroline Fayard for lieutenant governor probably means that her meteoric rise has passed its apogee. Running against an experienced politician, Sec. of State Jay Dardenne whose past centrist record aggravated some conservatives and probably led some to pass on this race, she had the opportunity to present herself as a blank slate for a do-little office that has no issue content during an election where anti-Washington/big government sentiment could spill over against an opponent like Dardenne, and had poured in maximal resources (perhaps with illegalities committed by state Democrats’ PAC in reporting) in an all-or-nothing effort that came up short.

This creates a problem for her going forward, because after this campaign, she no longer can claim to be a political outsider. Further, she is unlikely to get such an ideal candidate in an ideal environment that got her as close as a very liberal Democrat can get to winning statewide office. And should she run for any other statewide office, issues will be more important and, unless she executes a total sea change in her attitudes in a way that seems genuine to voters, she is on the wrong side of those issues for the majority of the public and will be distrusted if she persists in trying to pass herself off as more less liberal as her previous political activity suggests. In short, she probably never will have such a strong opportunity to win that kind of office and the brief phenomenon of her political popularity may be over.

Fayard might have political life left in her even if this was her best shot, but one incumbent who certainly does not despite good conditions is Anh “Joseph” Cao who did about all he could to hold onto his seat in Congressional District 2 that is 66 percent Democrat and 61 percent black registration. His faced an uneven black Democrat opponent, got plenty of money to deploy, performed great constituent service in his two years in office, and made some votes unusual for a Republican but which could put him in good stead with a district of its demographics. Even the rainy weather in the district, which folklore insists is an advantage for Republicans outside of rural areas, may have helped.

It’s possible that Cao may have a shot at the state-level seat for which he tried in 2007 but he may well exit electoral politics entirely. That’s a loss for those who value integrity in politics.

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