Election Notebook, July 16 Edition

In today’s update: more heat in the Vitter-Melancon campaign and the 3rd District tussle begins crossing party lines.

FUR FLIES IN SENATE RACE: After the Charlie Melancon campaign and Louisiana’s Democrat Party manned the bellows in an attempt to make a campaign issue of Sen. David Vitter’s friendly response to a Town Hall question Sunday on the issue of “birther” lawsuits, a POLITICO piece yesterday proclaimed that Vitter was crawfishing.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is walking back his recent comments expressing support for the “birther” movement.

Vitter caused a stir earlier this week after he was asked Sunday at a Tea Party rally in Metairie, La., what he would do “personally” about Obama’s “refusal” to disclose his birth certificate.

“I personally don’t have standing to bring litigation in court,” Vitter responded. “But I support conservative legal organizations and others who would bring that to court. I think that is the valid and most possibly effective grounds to do it.”

His remarks, which received widespread media attention, immediately led to speculation that Vitter was making a play to the right in the wake of a new primary challenger.

Vitter disputed the media’s characterization of him as a “birther” in a strongly-worded statement from his campaign.

“This attack is ridiculous,” Vitter said. “I’m not a birther, and I even said the issue is distracting. But I think people should have appropriate access to the courts. Is even that statement unacceptable now to the liberal thought police?”

It appears that when POLITICO reporter Shira Toeplitz was working on the piece in question, she called around Louisiana looking for local reaction. Hayride contributors Jeff Crouere and Walter Abbott both got calls from Toeplitz, and Crouere was quoted to the effect that Vitter knows what he’s doing and supportive comments about “birther” lawsuits only mean that Vitter won’t be beaten from the right.

That, incidentally, is a good take on Crouere’s part – it’s also probably accurate to say that with the statewide outrage at the president for his lackadaisical (James Carville’s description) and maliciously incompetent (our description) handling of the Gulf Oil Spill and even worse for his repeated attempts to impose an economy-killing drilling moratorium on us, there are lots of newfound “birthers” in Louisiana. We’re a pragmatic group of folks, and many of us see what Obama is doing to our state and will grasp at any straw we can find to get his claws off our throats – if some lawsuit can prove he was born in Kenya and ineligible to serve in that job, it won’t hurt our feelings. So for Vitter to give a slight nod to the birthers is anything but a mistake.

Toeplitz’ conversation with Walter, though, was never mentioned in her piece. He’s got an article at his site and reprinted here which more or less explains why – namely, that while Vitter’s Republican challenger Chet Traylor might be a good guy, he’s by no means an angel. That’s not really the narrative Vitter’s foes in the state’s Democrat Party or the national press are interested in; whether Traylor is complicit in it or not (we suspect the latter), the Melancon campaign and its sympathizers would love nothing better than a major GOP primary upset by Traylor before a closet full of skeletons would tumble out just in time for the general election – with Charlie-Boy as the winner by default.

Vitter might have gotten a little dirt on his shoes over the “birther” issue, regardless of the benefits on balance the kerfuffle might serve to him, but Melancon didn’t escape the week unscathed. The revelations that he took part in a fundraising smorgasbord up in Vancouver wherein 10 Democrat senate candidates took turns prostrating themselves to trial lawyers in return for a chunk of change did him no favors, and now the Louisiana GOP has launched a fresh assault on his credibility. It’s a site called GuessCharlie’sJob.com, and it builds on a piece Sam Hanna, Jr. wrote a couple of weeks ago in the Ouachita Citizen wondering what might be Melancon’s back end for running what looks like a hopeless campaign against Vitter. Melancon, after all, denied several times that he would be running for the Senate until he was prevailed upon to do so by “national Democrats” – and given the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff revelations, in which Obama administration officials and allies have proven themselves happy to promise jobs to prospective Senate candidates in an effort to clear the field for their favorites in Democrat primaries, the site asks whether Melancon is the recipient of promises in the other direction.

If the site is correct that Melancon’s campaign is a favor to be repaid later, it doesn’t look like he’ll get much for it. In the second quarter Melancon raised only $415,000 – which wouldn’t be a bad number if he was running for re-election as the congressman from the 3rd District, but for a statewide race it’s pitiful.

LANDRY LAYS INTO SANGISETTY: Speaking of Melancon’s 3rd District seat, the race for it is getting a little more interesting. Yesterday, Democrat nominee Ravi Sangisetty (he’s the only one on that side of the race) put out a release boasting that he’s raised $500,000 – more, the release claims, than “every other Republican.”

“All over this district, people are receptive to my message,” Sangisetty said. “With almost 800 donors, I’ve seen a groundswell of support from people who are ready for new blood. South Louisiana is fed up with political insiders and career politicians, and I am too. We need new leadership to fix a broken Washington.”

That statement didn’t go over too well on the other side of the aisle. Republican Jeff Landry’s campaign answered with a statement from its political consultant Brent Littlefield:

“Mr. Sangisetty continues to play fast and loose with fundraising numbers in this race just like his liberal Democrats in Washington have played fast and loose with the taxpayers’ money. This is a pattern for Ravi. Sangisetty said QUOTE: he has raised nearly a half a million dollars, more than all the Republican candidates combined. (Sangisetty campaign release July 14, 2010) However Jeff Landry announced this week he has added nearly $500,000 to his campaign account since the race began and has nearly $400,000 cash on hand – at a minimum now equal to the amount Sangisetty claims and dramatically more than either of his so-called Republican challengers. The facts show that once again Mr. Sangisetty’s fundraising claims cannot survive the facts just like similar releases earlier this year.

The release of his birth certificate may seek to demonstrate he was born in Louisiana, however no document can back his claim that he is a conservative Democrat.

His choice of party affiliation and alliance with his Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, proves he supports the Washington Democrat’s liberal agenda of increased taxes, the government takeovers of private industry and dramatically liberal values.

Ravi’s claims to be a conservative are as hollow as the other Democrat in this Congressional race who voted as a liberal for decades but now claims he is a Republican.

To be fair, it’s a little shaky to accuse Sangisetty of claiming to have outraised all the GOP candidates combined; he didn’t exactly make that claim. But the Landry campaign has been pointing out for some time that Sangisetty’s numbers have been inflated by loans he both personally has made to the campaign and taken out on its behalf.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Sangisetty’s campaign has brought in $544,000 and spent $261,000, with $283,000 on hand. But Landry’s campaign has raised $495,000 and spent just $116,000, with $379,000 on hand. Bragging about your fundraising prowess and how you’re outraising all the other candidates seems like a flimsy thing to do – not to mention it begs the question why, without a primary opponent, Sangisetty needs to spend $260,000 so far?

OpenSecrets says the other top GOP challenger, Hunt Downer, hasn’t filed his second-quarter financial statement yet.

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