Early voting has already begun in the Louisiana governor’s race, so it’s no surprise that the advertising blitz is non-stop at this point.
And for the most part, the number one issue in this year’s campaign, at least at this state, isn’t the ongoing budget deficit struggles or the plight of the state’s oil industry, or the poor quality of the roads or the lagging public schools.
It’s David Vitter.
Pro and con, Vitter is the issue in the race.
For example, we saw these two ads running back to back on two separate occasions this morning…
And then this…
The first ad is a product of Gumbo PAC, the trial lawyer-funded outfit run by Democrat political consultant and former Charlie Melancon campaign manager Trey Ourso. Ourso wouldn’t say what they’re spending on the ad.
The crying baby in the ad, on the surface, makes zero sense unless you recognize it as a dog whistle. The Democrats have long bandied about a story that Vitter’s dalliances with hookers had to do with him wanting to be infantilized and put in a diaper, which is interesting since their cultural aggressions of late have generally involved attempting to browbeat the rest of us into celebrating people wishing to engage in such behavior publicly.
In any event, hinting at something most voters have little idea about makes the ad not overly effective. But since there is no actual proof of the “diapers” allegation, Ourso can only hint at it for fear he’d get sued for libeling Vitter – it’s not like the senator can’t prove malice. What the ad smacks of is inside baseball – as though it’s not actually directed at moving the needle with the voters and keeping Vitter out of the runoff, but rather to impress the trial lawyer donors who fund Gumbo PAC. The fact the ad starts off talking about how terrible Bobby Jindal is, when it’s pretty common knowledge that Jindal and Vitter have never gotten along and when John Bel Edwards, who is the unspoken beneficiary of Gumbo PAC’s activities, has called Vitter a “third term for Jindal.”
The number one rule of advertising is, you don’t advertise to yourself if you want a decent return on investment. And all the people who (1) know about the whole diaper thing and (2) could care less are already not voting for Vitter in the primary.
The second ad shows Vitter as an effective and compassionate leader who takes care of the people government owes care to. It’s the second such ad he’s run – he also had an ad called “Miracle,” about how he was able to put a dying woman on a transplant list and save her life which debuted a month ago. Both of those ads are aimed at softening Vitter’s image a bit, since the majority of the $6.5 million or so spent on TV in the governor’s race to date has been ads either by Vitter’s opponents or anti-Vitter PACs attacking him or his own ads aimed at keeping Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne down. That dynamic has been an irritant for many around the state, so it’s a good idea for his stretch run to contain a shift to more positive messaging aimed at building the case for him as a leader who can get things done.
Which is why he’s also running this ad…
Dardenne seems to be running more media at this point than Angelle; the buzz around the latter appears to be that he’s a little short-stacked in terms of campaign cash and doesn’t have the resources to stay on the air down the stretch. But Dardenne doesn’t like to do a lot of attack ads, and he’s got a spot running now which is something of a closing statement making the case for the Era Of Good Feelings he would usher in if elected…
Meanwhile, the Republican Governors’ Association is rolling into the campaign with a million-dollar ad buy that will represent the first time anybody has attacked Edwards in this campaign. Here’s the ad…
It’s more or less a standard boilerplate “the Democrat candidate is an Obama-loving leftist” spot, which would make a lot more sense to air for the runoff than in the primary, but our speculation is that two things bring it on; first, the fact that all the polls outside of the ones done by Verne Kennedy show a Vitter-Edwards runoff means that for the RGA to wait until the runoff looks like an endorsement of Vitter and you could make a valid criticism that an organization devoted to getting Republicans elected to governorships ought to be acting to make a runoff containing two Republicans. And second, that Edwards has been running around the state pushing the laughable narrative that he’s a conservative Democrat that Republican voters can pull a lever for in good conscience, something there are actually Republican voters buying at this point, and it’s not too soon to begin dispelling that.
One sort of wonders why Dardenne and Angelle have never done that. In Thursday’s debate neither one really hit Edwards as a lefty, which from our view was a mistake because it fed Edwards’ narrative and it also made Vitter’s absence actually work for him. When Dardenne and Angelle spend the hour palling around with Edwards and griping about Vitter along with him, the 45 percent of the state’s electorate who call themselves conservatives are practically invited to vote for the Senator on the basis that there is no difference between the other three.
But the RGA is going to play that role, and if the expected Vitter-Edwards runoff sets in after the primary in 12 days you can expect a lot more of what you’re seeing – third parties clobbering Vitter on hookers, other third parties clobbering Edwards as an Obamunist, Vitter talking about things he’s done as a Senator which show that he’d be an effective governor and Edwards probably beginning to spend some money on TV spots about how conservative he is.