Hardly a surprise, of course – Vitter has been piling up a huge endorsement list, Scalise is something of a protege’ of his and there’s the regional angle; namely, both are of the same suburban New Orleans Republican community which is central to the “Vitter faction” you hear about in opposition to the Baton Rouge-based “Jindal faction” kinda-sorta represented by Scott Angelle in this race.
So at this morning’s press conference, the frontrunner in the race picked up the state’s most powerful congressman as an endorser…
David Vitter (R- La.) today announced key endorsements from Louisiana’s First Congressional District. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston are both endorsing Vitter for Governor.
“Having served with David Vitter in the Louisiana legislature and in Congress, I’ve witnessed firsthand his commitment to the state of Louisiana and his ability to solve critical problems,” said Scalise. “Our state currently faces many important challenges. That’s why I am excited to endorse David and see that he is the first candidate for governor to release a bold plan to solve many of the critical problems facing our state.”
“I’ve known David since he ran for my seat in Congress, and one thing is clear – he will not be outworked,” former Rep. Bob Livingston said. “David Vitter stands up for what he believes and fights to get results. I haven’t seen anything as substantive and forward thinking as the plan he’s been rolling out to take on the challenges at the state level. David is a no nonsense kind of guy and we need his leadership as our next Governor.”
Vitter has also been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, John Fleming, and Ralph Abraham and Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy.
Garret Graves is the only current GOP congressman not to have endorsed Vitter, and most people think that’s simply a matter of time.
In the meantime, as Jeff Sadow notes this morning, Jay Dardenne could be silently gaining some headway – though not quite enough to date – as the “most acceptable Republican” to white liberal Democrats who don’t think John Bel Edwards is viable. Bob “Captain Obvious” Mann wrote a column on Friday laying out the case for white liberals voting for Dardenne which could have been written by a mentally-challenged pelican; Vitter is the worst possible thing which could happen to Louisiana’s Democrats, and Louisiana’s Democrats can’t offer a candidate with a chance to win statewide office; therefore Louisiana’s Democrats must act as an interest group rather than a political party.
Should this build, at some point Dardenne is going to have to make a statement of who he wants to be. Does he want to stand in as a de-facto Democrat candidate, with all that entails? Hint: it entails putting Democrats in his cabinet and in positions of influence on legislative committees if he wins. Or is Dardenne going to run as a solid conservative with a record of competence and humility without the baggage Vitter brings?
He could do either. He’s probably more attractive and perhaps more honest as the latter; the problem being that to attract enough support to run as a conservative alternative to Vitter he has to get Angelle out of the race. But as the former, while he might have the best chance to make the runoff the pitfalls are many – Vitter might be seen as something of a divisive figure in Louisiana politics, but the most despised creature on the political scene is the dreaded RINO – hated by conservatives, distrusted by liberals.
Dardenne could beat Vitter in a runoff by navigating the rapids as a “fusion candidate” with Democrat support. But could he get enough black vote to ride past Edwards? And how could he stack up as a Republican against what is looking more and more like a unified conservative establishment in the state?