Sen. David Vitter got what he wanted. State Rep. John Bel Edwards got what he wanted.
Louisianians got a run-off in the governor’s race between a staunch conservative Republican and a populist Democrat, neither of whom could have prevailed in the general election in November if they had been forced into a showdown with Scott Angelle or Jay Dardenne.
Regardless, the stage has been set for a good old-fashioned slugfest between warring factions in Louisiana, both of which believe their vision for the state is far better than the setting we’ve lived with for the past eight years under Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Let the fun begin, for it already has, evidenced by Vitter’s rather pointed remarks Saturday when he spoke to supporters at his election night get-together in Metairie. Vitter faced the tried and true shortly after learning he had turned back a spirited challenge by Angelle, whose 19 percent of the vote wasn’t quite enough to catch Team Vitter, which burned through some $11 million en route to capturing 23 percent of the votes in an election in which only 38 percent of the state’s registered voters bothered to cast a ballot in the governor’s race. Edwards ran high with 40 percent of the vote, thanks to blacks. Dardenne pulled 15 percent.
In his speech on election night, Vitter made it perfectly clear that the key difference between he and Edwards revolved around one issue. Make that one man: Barack Obama. Edwards and his supporters, including those who erroneously believe the run-off will center on contrasts in policy, had better get used to hearing the president’s name. You will hear it ad nauseam. In other words, Vitter will go to great pains to point out that Edwards is an Obamaite who would do for Louisiana what Obama has done for America. Or to America.
The path going forward for Vitter is quite simple. He’s got to pull Angelle’s voters into his corner and lure moderate Republicans and the like into the fold as well. Convincing the pro-Angelle crowd to join Team Vitter is entirely plausible since polling told us Vitter was the second choice among the bulk of the voters who pulled the lever for Angelle in the primary. Moderates must be led to believe they can’t afford the tax increases that are certain to rear their head under a Democrat governor whose core base of support will demand revenge for the beating they’ve taken with Jindal at the helm.
On the other side of the fence, Edwards must get blacks to the polls in four weeks in an impressive fashion and pull 99 percent of their vote. Meanwhile, he’s got to capture one in four white votes, and the only way that’s going to happen is if moderate, white voters are convinced Edwards isn’t some wild-eyed liberal who’s going to tear across the countryside raising taxes to the heavens in order to finance a massive expansion of the welfare state.
The latter is vitally important for Edwards. But before he can even begin to articulate his vision for Louisiana to Louisiana he’s got to take the Leftists in his party behind closed doors and tell them to shut their mouths. Forthwith. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, the chairwoman of the state Democrat Party, in particular, needs a strip of duct tape right across the kisser, for all of her blabbering about instituting a “progressive” tax in Louisiana to create a “more equal” Louisiana will stop Edwards’ run-off campaign in its tracks. Let’s not forget about her smart aleck remark on the floor of the Senate a couple of years ago about opposition to Obamacare being fueled by racism among whites.
Rest assured, Vitter will remind us of it. And a whole lot more.
Sam Hanna is a state political writer.