…and those bombs are going to be thrown at each in relatively equal amounts.
Right now, though, it looks like he’s taking special aim at Angelle. Over the weekend Vitter’s Super PAC, the Fund For Louisiana’s Future, put out a spot which laid that sinkhole in Assumption Parish at Angelle’s feet since at the time the sinkhole opened up he was Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and resigned shortly following the event in order to run for the Public Service Commission.
The substance of the spot is essentially similar to allegations the Louisiana Democrat Party made against Angelle three years ago when they put out a video of him dodging a question about the sinkhole at the Baton Rouge Press Club during a forum with the other 2012 Public Service Commission candidates.
The sinkhole was more of a political nuisance than a major environmental problem (if you had a camp at Bayou Corne you certainly thought it was a big deal, but that’s what lawsuits and settlements are for), but the Democrats certainly wouldn’t shut up about it. Were Angelle to make the runoff with John Bel Edwards you can bet you’d never hear the end of the sinkhole stuff – so Vitter’s PAC probably figured they might as well take a shot at using it to keep him out of the runoff, particularly if their guy is going to have to deal with sniping about hookers until Election Day.
Vitter also has a spot running that ties Angelle to Barack Obama, owing to the fact that Angelle was a Democrat until 2010. It’s a bit of a cheap shot, but the strategy behind it is sound – namely, that Angelle has presented himself as the conservative alternative to Vitter, but how is he credible to make that case when he was still a Democrat after Obama won election as that party’s nominee?
It speaks to what a lot of long-time Republicans have felt for a while; namely that it might have been neat to get people to switch parties from D to R in order to build a governing majority in Louisiana but now that there is one the turncoats don’t have any particular claim on political power over people who have been Republicans their whole lives.
It’s interesting that Jay Dardenne hasn’t used that line of attack on Angelle, but then again Dardenne doesn’t run a lot of red-meat attack ads. It’s just not his style. His latest TV ad touts himself and only really gets a dig in at the competition with a line saying “not a hint of scandal” surrounding his career.
One imagines that’s coming. If it doesn’t, that might be an indication Vitter’s camp thinks Angelle is a bigger threat to catch on than Dardenne is. Either that or they think the Water Coalition PAC is a Scott Angelle/Roy Fletcher gambit, and beating up Angelle more than Dardenne is retaliation for that.
Either way, Vitter needs Angelle and Dardenne to split the vote between them as evenly as possible – because so long as neither gains a major upper hand on the other, the runoff will be a Vitter-John Bel Edwards affair. So Vitter’s messaging, when he’s not running his own issue and biographical ads, is going to make him an equal-opportunity attacker.
He won’t hit Edwards any time soon. That comes in the runoff, assuming both candidates make it.