UPDATED: The Tea Leaves Say Vitter’s Running For Governor In 2015
It’s not definite, but this news from yesterday is a giveaway of sorts…
A Washington fundraising heavyweight is helping to set up federal and state super PACs to support U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a move that heightens speculation that Vitter is eyeing a bid to run for governor.
Lawyer Charlie Spies told The Associated Press that Vitter supporters filed paperwork Monday with federal and state agencies creating The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a pro-Vitter political action committee.
The federal super PAC could support a Vitter re-election bid in 2016, while a state PAC could aid him if he decides to launch a gubernatorial campaign in 2015.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is term-limited and can’t run again. Vitter has sidestepped questions about his interest in the governor’s race, but hasn’t squelched the speculation.
Spies co-founded the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.
A PAC doesn’t have to just support a particular candidate, mind you. If Vitter builds a war chest to, say, back a friendly candidate for governor in 2015 with money out of his state PAC, this news could be a signal for that.
On the other hand, the state PAC could be for his gubernatorial campaign and the federal PAC could be for him to back his choice for his replacement in 2016.
Naturally, Vitter’s camp is keeping things nice and quiet. “The senator is 100 percent focused and energized by his work in the U.S. Senate. Future campaigns are not on his radar right now,” Vitter spokesman Joel DiGrado said in an email.
Here’s our theory: expect Vitter to run in 2015, subject to two potentially intervening factors. First, if the Republicans can retake the Senate in 2014, which is a possibility though only if the party can find a far better slate of candidates than it did in 2012, Vitter will then become the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – which is a very big deal. It would put him in a position to dramatically overhaul the Corps of Engineers, which is a passion of his, and have a huge say in how the Interior Department does oil and gas leasing. Vitter would be in a position to go toe-to-toe with whoever the Obama administration’s Interior Secretary will be at that point, and in the event the GOP can get the White House in 2016 Vitter might actually be able to oversee a renaissance in energy from that perch.
So that’s attractive, and it might be enough to keep him from running for governor (which is what he’s always wanted).
But the other factor would be if another candidate who shares Vitter’s philosophy on things like state budgets and other hot-button conservative issues and who has a chance to win should surface. Who that might be at this point is a question; none of the statewide office-holders out there really look like great bets for that with the possible exception of John Kennedy, and it’s questionable whether there’s a legislator out there who has enough juice statewide to beat Jay Dardenne – the default favorite at this point.
But if things stay as they are, Vitter is going to run. You probably didn’t hear it here first, but you did hear it here.
UPDATE: POLITICO has picked up on the PAC developments and gets a sit-down with Vitter on the potential governor’s race and his work on the EPW committee…
“I think it’s insanely early to focus on that. I’m not thinking about it. Will I be thinking about it in a year? I honestly don’t know because I haven’t even started thinking about whether I want to think about it,” he said in the interview.
“And I’m not being coy, but I don’t spend a millisecond thinking about that.”