Stormy Season for Vitter

February 13, 2009

By John Maginnis
LaPolitics Weekly

Normally, this would be called the “silly season” for a U.S. Senate election still 21 months away, but it’s been stormy weather instead for Sen. David Vitter’s re-election bid. The well-publicized effort to draft porn star Stormy Daniels is competing for media attention with Vitter’s re-emergence as a leading conservative voice, following a sex scandal that largely silenced him for a year.

Whether the “Draft Stormy” movement, centered on a web site, succeeds in getting the Baton Rouge native and California resident on the 2010 ballot is an open question. Daniels said this week she doubted she would run, mainly because Senate service would mean a pay cut for her. But draft organizer Zach Hudson, a University of New Orleans student who has worked for Democratic candidates, doesn’t take that as a no.

Daniels is going along with it all for now. She said she would make a “listening tour” of Louisiana, possibly in May when she is scheduled for dance at the Gold Club in Baton Rouge.

She Rains on His Re-emergence

Just the attention drawn to her possible candidacy is having its negative effects on Vitter already, causing the recitation of facts about the senator’s involvement with a Washington, D.C., escort service in every story about her. This after he had managed to start to put the scandal behind him, stepping out as a principled opponent of the banking bailout bill last year and President Obama’s stimulus package.

Yet, were the Stormy sideshow to develop into her actually entering the race next fall, it could perversely aid Vitter’s re-election, especially if she files to run as an independent in November. As a protest candidate, every vote she gets would most likely come at the expense of a Democratic candidate. In a plurality election, a 10 percent vote for Daniels could make it impossible for a Democrat to catch Vitter.

Hudson disputes that scenario, pointing to an unscientific web site poll by Baton Rouge Business Report this week that showed: Vitter, 39 percent; Daniels, 32; Democrat Jim Bernhard, 28. He says the conservative readership of the business publication indicates that Daniels draws equally or more so from Vitter’s base. Perhaps, but he still leads the poll.

The prospect of Daniels’ candidacy could also be an impediment to a serious Democrat like Bernhard entering the race with her in the way.

Before then, Vitter’s concern would be the damage done by a prolonged publicity stunt, as the state Republican party terms it. It could wear itself out and even invoke sympathy for Vitter. Or it could keep alive the character issue and thus encourage a viable Republican to challenge him in the primary.

Secretary of State Jay Dardenne continues to keep his options open. Yet he incurred some old-fashioned fiscal conservative criticism this week toward his proposed $6 million renovation of the Old State Capitol into a political history museum, while the state faces a budget deficit.

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