Dardenne decision endangers Landrieu re-election
11th March 2013 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore
“This isn’t good,” the liberal website DailyKos.org, led with last Tuesday.
The revelation that Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne is seriously considering a challenge to U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in next year’s midterm elections struck fear in the hearts of Democratic strategists intent upon holding the Senate against dangers of a GOP takeover.
Republicans have a tactical advantage in the 2014 Senatorial elections. With the exception of deeply purple Iowa, every state where a Democratic Senator runs for re-election voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Put another way, the Democratic margin of control of the U.S. Senate is comprised of endangered moderate incumbents in increasingly conservative, red states.
And, with Dardenne’s decision comes her strongest contender in years. A recent Progressive Policy Polling survey revealed that Mary Landrieu’s strongest potential challenger proved Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, trailing just 46/43. That is well within the four percent statistical margin of error, and markedly better than the other eight La. Republicans tested against her by PPP. Congressmen Jeff Landry, John Fleming, Steve Scalise, Bill Cassidy, and Charles Boustany rank at 48/39, 50/38, 48/38, 50/38, and 48/42 respectively. Governor Jindal lost 49/41.
Until recently, most believed Dardenne would likely seek to ascend to the Governorship, rather than stand for the Senate. That assurance contrasted with recent events in Washington that point to U.S. Senator David Vitter strongly considering a bid for the Governor’s Mansion.
Vitter, called “rehabilitated” in a recent politico.com article, has had two SuperPACs established on his behalf to raise money for a possible bid in Louisiana. The Republican Senator also assumed the role of captain of the Washington Mardi Gras Ball, often signaling the apex of political power amongst the Louisiana elite in the nation’s capital. Most remarkably, Vitter has become something of a bipartisan player, sponsoring legislation with Ohio’s Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown that would break up the “too big to fail” banks that hold 120 percent of U.S. GDP in their portfolios. It was a move of regulation that drew the praise of both left-wing Mother Jones magazine and the right-wing columnist George Will.
The governor’s office had been an objective of Vitter’s while a 1st District Congressman. He had transferred his federal campaign funds to a Louisiana account in anticipation of a bid (just before the law was changed to prohibit the practice) Reportedly, Vitter was dissuaded from that 2003 bid by a threat from GOP Governor Mike Foster that “certain information” would be revealed if he did. That proved to be the Wendy Cortez prostitute scandal first revealed in the pages of The Louisiana Weekly, and later made famous as part of the DC Madam case.
Separate polls have shown, though, that the Louisiana electorate forgave Vitter, if not forgot. The voters certainly did not care in 2010 when previously popular Conservative Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon lost to Vitter by more than ten points, indicating a real potential should the Senator run for the Governorship.
While the antipathy between Jay Dardenne and David Vitter is well-known in GOP circles (and almost rivals the near detestment felt by Jindal’s circle for Vitter), insiders predict to this newspaper that the Lt. Governor would likely not opt for a brutal, well-financed bid against Vitter when a Senate race is a possibility in 2014.
Moreover, as Mary Landrieu has signaled that she plans to stand for a fourth term for U.S. Senate in 2014, she cannot count on that Swing Republican voters in New Orleans metro who pushed her over the top in 2008. It was the GOP electorate of Jefferson, Orleans, and the GNO who made the difference in the New Orleans Democrat prevailing over Treasurer John Kennedy.
This article originally published in the March 11, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.