October 1, 2010…The polls look bad and time is running out, so Louisiana Democrats have now resorted to playing the sex card in the U.S. Senate race.
With only one month until the election, Republican incumbent, U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is comfortably ahead of his Democratic opponent, U.S. Congressman Charlie Melancon (D-Napoleonville). Most polls show Vitter leading by at least 15 points.
To close the gap, Melancon is now airing an unusual two minute television commercial linking Vitter to the late D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey and former New Orleans prostitute Wendy Cortez.
While Vitter’s phone number was listed in the call records of the Washington D.C. prostitution ring, he only admitted to a ‘serious sin.” None of the allegations have ever been proven in a court of law and Vitter has never been charged with a crime, yet, the title of the commercial is “Forgotten Crimes.” Since the ad included charges that have not been proven, even the liberal cable news network CNN called the commercial a “stretch.”
Even more disturbing is that the commercial contains racy video footage from a Hustler Magazine interview with Wendy Cortez, who posed nude for the publication.
This marks the first time that sleaze merchant Larry Flynt and his Hustler Magazine have been featured in a mainstream political commercial. An ex-prostitute’s nude photo shoot with a pornographic magazine is not exactly the standard fare in political commercials. It represents a new low even for Louisiana politics, which is quite an achievement considering our state’s sordid political history.
Melancon is trying his very best to change the subject from the poor economy and the ineffective leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama. Melancon gave Obama an “A” rating as President and voted for Pelosi to be Speaker of the House, so he is linked to both Democratic Party leaders, who remain very unpopular in Louisiana.
If this election is a referendum on the presidency of Barack Obama, David Vitter will win in a landslide. If the election is a referendum on David Vitter and his personal issues, Charlie Melancon has a chance to win. So, Melancon is dredging up this scandal from several years ago in an attempt to remind voters about the Vitter controversies.
Polls indicate that in this election season, Louisiana voters care about the poor economy and the unhealthy job market. They are also worried about high taxes, their deteriorating paychecks, the oil moratorium and the uncertain state of the healthcare industry. It will be very difficult to turn their attention to the sex life of David Vitter. When people are struggling to pay their bills and survive while the Obama administration targets the oil industry, one of the biggest industries in the state, it is hard to interest them in salacious allegations about a Senator that date back over three years. Most informed voters are well aware of the suspicions about Vitter; however, they are much more concerned about economic issues. This is why Vitter, despite the scandal, is well ahead of his Democratic challenger.
In 1998, Republicans were unsuccessful in their attempt to use the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton for political purposes. In fact, the major casualties of the Lewinsky scandal were Republicans such as Bob Livingston and Newt Gingrich and not “Slick Willie.”
In the “Great Recession” of 2010 it is highly unlikely that Melancon will be successful in playing the sex card against Vitter. The Democratic candidate has a real handicap that he must overcome, the unpopularity of his political party.
Unless new information is forthcoming that verifies some of the unsubstantiated charges against Vitter, this desperate attack will not work and may even backfire on the underdog Democrat.
Jeff Crouere is the Host of “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. He is the Political Analyst for WGNO-TV ABC26 and a Columnist for selected publications. For more information, visit his web site at RingsidePolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].