Melancon Refuses To Participate In Tea Party Debates

In the Times-Picayune today is an article on the Melancon campaign’s call for five televised debates with incumbent Republican David Vitter in advance of the Nov. 2 general election for the Senate seat Vitter currently holds.

But Melancon offers a curious quote toward the end of the article.

Although Melancon asked for all Senate candidates to be invited, he said he would not object if the sponsors set up criteria for participation that excluded some candidates. He said his top concern is making sure there are no “pre-screened” questions that favor one candidate over another.

“Hopefully it’s not stacked with MoveOn folks or tea party folks,” Melancon said, referring to groups that are sympathetic to the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. He said he would not participate in a debate hosted by a tea party organization.

There will be debates, of course, though one wonders whether five of them will be required. But Melancon’s statement is inartful, to say the least. MoveOn.org is about as popular as jock itch in Louisiana, so the fact that Melancon is supported by its adherents wouldn’t particularly help him. For him to run away from the far left is relatively standard fare.

But in a state where some 31 percent of likely voters, according to Rasmussen, identify themselves with the Tea Party and an additional 21 percent call themselves Tea Party sympathizers, for Melancon to characterize the Tea Party as a fringe organization along the lines of MoveOn.org is just plain laughable.

The Vitter campaign doesn’t really need advice from the Hayride, but we’ll give it anyway. Vitter is ahead by 10-12 points even in polling done by Public Policy Polling, a Democrat outfit, and Ron Faucheux – Mary Landrieu’s former campaign manager. He’s sitting on  campaign war chest which dwarfs Melancon’s. He doesn’t particularly need a debate with Melancon, though there is little reason to think he wouldn’t maul the Napoleonville Democrat in them.

But Melancon’s refusal to attend a Tea Party debate is gold for Vitter, and he should take advantage. In fact, if I were running Vitter’s campaign I’d insist on at least one Tea Party debate as a condition for having any debates at all!

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