Three highly-publicized issues involving U.S. Sen. David Vitter in the past two weeks, along with an increasing momentum for Republican and conservative candidates nationwide, seem to be driving a major surge for Louisiana’s junior senator in his bid for re-election this fall, as a new Rasmussen poll has Vitter scorching his Democrat opponent, Congressman Charlie Melancon, by a 57-33 count.
The numbers on the poll tell a pretty amazing story:
- Men heavily favor Vitter 68% to 26%, while women prefer the Republican by 11 points, 49% to 38%.
- Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Louisiana voters now hold a very favorable opinion of the senator, up four points over the past month. Eleven percent (11%) now hold a very unfavorably opinion of Vitter, his lowest negative rating in recent polling on the race.
- As for Melancon, just 11% view the Democrat very favorably, up just one point from January. One-in-five voters (20%) share a very unfavorable opinion of the Democrat.
- Thirty-seven percent (37%) of Louisiana voters now approve of President Obama’s job performance, while 63% disapprove. These numbers include 26% who strongly approve of the job he is doing and 53% who strongly disapprove. This is a higher rate of disapproval than is found nationally in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.
- Like most of the country, most Louisiana voters (66%) say cutting taxes is a better way to create jobs than increasing government spending. Just 13% take the opposite view.
- Most voters (55%) in the state also favor an income tax cut for all Americans, but 26% oppose the idea.
- Fifty-seven (57%) of Louisiana voters believe it is possible to balance the federal budget without raising taxes, while 22% disagree.
- Seventy percent (70%) of Louisiana voters approve of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal’s performance, while only 28% disapprove.
The Louisiana polling isn’t a colossal surprise, as Vitter has been polling between 18 and 20 percent ahead of Melancon prior to three moves or developments in the last two weeks which have helped boost his stock with the locals.
First, Vitter’s handling of the Who Dat controversy, in which he printed t-shirts mocking the NFL and dared the league to sue him along with the mom-and-pop merchants they had fired off cease-and-desist letters to, was perfect – he shamed the NFL into backing off their position by making public arguments backed up with actions. Vitter didn’t ask the state attorney general to sue the NFL and he didn’t go to Congress with a bill threatening to revoke the NFL’s antitrust exemption if they continued to attack the purveyors of Who Dat shirts, which are the typical/Democrat reactions to everything politicians don’t like.
The Who Dat controversy followed on the heels of Vitter’s holding the president’s feet to the fire on Jim Letten’s reappointment as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which ultimately came to fruition a couple of weeks ago. Vitter had put holds on the blue slips for a host of Democrat judicial appointments throughout the state in an effort to secure a formal reappointment for Letten, who is perhaps the most popular public official in the New Orleans area, and stuck to his guns despite a withering set of attacks by the state’s Democrat Party and Vitter’s Senate counterpart Mary Landrieu. His persistence paid off, and Letten was officially retained. That the battle turned out not to be an enormously difficult one, as the Obama administration had said Letten was keeping his job even without a formal reappointment, was immaterial; it was politics well-played and it was appreciated by the people of the Crescent City and the rest of the state who don’t trust Obama on matters like Letten’s reappointment.
And the third item Vitter benefited from was a controversy he had little to do with. When James O’Keefe was arrested outside Landrieu’s offices for purportedly trying to bug her phones, a media-reported falsehood based on what looks like a trumped-up charge which might be negotiated down to something relatively minor in comparison, the state’s Democrat leadership went out of their way to pin the O’Keefe issue on Vitter. This gambit backfired completely, as even the state’s media saw the attacks as unhinged and ridiculous, and Vitter wisely kept his mouth shut other than to assure the public that Letten’s office was perfectly capable of handling the issue in a proper manner. He came off looking statesmanlike, while Melancon’s stock was hardly helped by his friends at party headquarters and their loopy suggestions that Vitter had something to do with O’Keefe’s stunt.
At this point the race is going almost too well for the Republican Party nationally, which would prefer to see the Democrats pour money into an effort to prop up Melancon’s chances. That’s unlikely to happen in a 24-point race, which means the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee will likely be shifting resources to more competitive candidates like Robin Carnahan in Missouri, Alexi Giannoulias in Illinois or Barbara Boxer in California.
Maybe Vitter ought to throw out a few controversial statements here and there to reel in that lead and keep Melancon close enough to get the DSCC to waste some money on the race. Call it “taking one for the team.” After all, with a 24-point lead and a gigantic fundraising advantage, he’s pretty close to Edwin Edwards’ “dead girl/live boy” territory.