THE RACE IS ON: Dardenne Bashes Vitter For Skipping Senate Budget Vote

A press release out today…

Last night the U.S. Senate passed a budget for the first time in six years.  The bill included many of the key priorities Republicans ran on last year when they took control of the Senate which included moving towards a balanced budget with $5.3 trillion in cuts in the next 10 years, repealing Obamacare, abolishing the Death Tax, and welfare reform.

Only one senator was absent from the vote.  Senator David Vitter.  Instead of putting his constituents first, he was seen sipping on a microbrew with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in Louisiana for his gubernatorial bid.  This isn’t too surprising since Senator Vitter can also be found on the list of top 10 absentee senators.  Since taking office in 2005, Vitter came in at number 6 on the list.

Louisiana is in desperate need of real leadership and unfortunately it already seem like Senator Vitter is ready to give us more of the same in Louisiana, putting his own personal ambitions ahead of the needs of the people.  We are seeing first-hand what I’ve been saying all along; Washington politics won’t solve Louisiana problems.

For years, we were told from Washington and Sen. Vitter that the Democrats were holding up real change.  Yet, at the first chance to act on real change, Sen. Vitter would rather put his own ambitions ahead of doing the job he was elected to do.

We deserve better.  We need better to move on from years of failed policy.  It’s easy to say you want better for Louisiana, but I am running to prove that to the people of Louisiana.

-Jay Dardenne

The budget resolution passed, 51-48. Vitter missed the vote, while Rand Paul and Ted Cruz voted against it. Maybe Vitter would have voted for it, maybe he would have voted against it. It had the votes to pass anyway.

Believe what you want about Vitter missing the vote or whether it’s valid for Dardenne to hit him on missing votes in the Senate.

As a matter of political analysis, we find this interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, Dardenne is a little out of character as an attack dog. He ran a pretty inoffensive race for re-election against Billy Nungesser in 2011, and he really didn’t drop too many bombs on Caroline Fayard when he ran against her in 2010 for his current job.

But he’s definitely shedding his nice-guy persona this time. There was a gubernatorial forum a couple of weeks back at which Vitter wasn’t physically present (he answered pre-tendered questions via a video feed), and Dardenne took a few shots at the senator over his 12-year old dalliances with prostitutes, and now he’s openly trashing Vitter’s senatorial record.

The people who don’t like Vitter will like this fine. Unfortunately, though, there aren’t enough of those who aren’t committed to voting Democrat to put Dardenne into the runoff.

So is this going to shake loose Vitter’s voters and push them to Dardenne?

That gives us our second question: is this going to move anybody’s vote away from Vitter?

Dardenne’s camp would argue that Vitter is a show horse who does a lot of things to make news but he doesn’t do all the grunt work needed for effective governance, and that’s what Dardenne is about. Painting Vitter as an absentee senator is of a piece with a lot of Dardenne’s messaging about Bobby Jindal’s time spent out of state and how that has made him acting governor 37 or so days this year.

The thing is, most of the Vitter voters like him because they do perceive him to be effective as a senator and they see him as energetic and aggressive in forwarding his agenda. It would probably take a whole lot of chipping away in order to diminish that perception.

And the downside of that effort is that given the state’s budget deficit and the structural problems in state government Louisianans generally perceive, this election is likely going to come down to whose vision for the state is most attractive. Time spent taking Vitter’s attendance, as strategic as it might be to spend it, is time not spent showing the voters a vision and an agenda of what Louisiana would look like if Dardenne was governor.

Which is not to say Dardenne can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. The problem, though, could come down to a perception issue for Dardenne. If Vitter is putting out big plans for a new direction of the state and Dardenne is talking about votes in DC that Vitter is missing, the guy who looks gubernatorial is Vitter and Dardenne looks more like a tattletale.

He’s going to need a few more elements in order to make these attacks hit home. We’ll see, as the campaign goes on, whether he has them.



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