Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon is a dead man walking regarding his campaign to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. David Vitter, but he doesn’t yet realize he is a political corpse. From the beginning, his strategy to defeat Vitter, whose current lead is 18 points, has been to try to paint Vitter as unethical. In doing so, he and his party have made some big reaches but perhaps none so far as his latest effort.
Recently, Vitter fired a staffer 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. He also had prior run-ins with the law about which Vitter and his staff did not know, including conviction of cocaine possession. He dealt with abortion issues, among other things, for Vitter.
While this doesn’t say a lot about Vitter’s vetting process for staffers, neither does the affair demonstrate anything close to what Melancon has to say about it, an accusation that aide was the women’s outreach coordinator, that Vitter “protected” him, and thus Vitter has a tolerance for people insensitive to women. “I’m a father and I have a daughter. What’s he doing with a guy like this on his staff?” fulminated Melancon, who in his high dudgeon seemed to forget that Vitter has three daughters of his own.
Melancon went this dubious route perhaps because of that latest polling data that showed that among men Vitter held a 30 point lead while it was “only” 11 points among women. When drowning, the desperate grab on even if it’s an anchor thrown their way so Melancon must be thinking the gender gap holds some key to his winning.
But those familiar with polling and political behavior know that the gender gap normally is caused by one tremendous outlier group among voters: single women with children, particularly lower income. That is, if you adjust for marital status and whether having children, except for the lowest income brackets, the gender gap doesn’t exist. It only appears in aggregate because of the overwhelming advantage Democrat candidates have in that one category.
And that’s not because of any perceived anti-female attitudes that Republican or conservative candidates like Vitter have in the minds of these people. It’s because Democrats are seen as the candidates most likely to back laws spewing forth generous welfare and other government benefits and the most likely to favor black interests (this group largely disproportionately is composed of blacks). There’s no reason to believe this pattern does not hold true in this race. But, unfortunately for Democrats, this group comprises perhaps a twentieth of the population and even less of the proportion of those who show up to vote.
So this isn’t anything close to a winning strategy. But it’s been desperation mode for the Melancon campaign for a long time now, and this is just the latest in long-shot tactics that will fall (well) short.