We said on Friday that it was a mistake, and an overreach, for John Bel Edwards to have dropped that terrible ad about David Vitter taking calls from hookers. And we’re officially right about that as of this morning.
What happened was that a mother of a Louisiana National Guardsman who died in that terrible Black Hawk crash off the Florida coast during a training exercise, and who was buried at Arlington National Cemetery thanks to a lot of hustle by Sen. David Vitter getting the Defense Department to drop its stupid rule saying that you can’t be buried at Arlington unless you’re classified as a “combat” casualty, went to Edwards and demanded that he take that ad down.
The mother of a Louisiana National Guardsman who was killed last spring has apparently sent a letter to Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards to pull an ad in which Edwards’ accuses gubernatorial opponent Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter of “choosing prostitutes over patriots.”
Kim Florich said in the letter she was offended by the ad because it depicted Vitter talking on a cell phone with Arlington National Cemetery in the background.
Florich, originally from Baton Rouge, was one of four Louisiana Army National Guardsmen killed in a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter crash off the coast of Florida on March 10 during a training mission. But because Florich wasn’t listed as on active duty, the Army initially said he couldn’t be buried in Arlington as his family requested.
Louisiana’s delegation, including Vitter, eventually secured an exception so Florich could be buried at Arlington.
The letter from Kim Florich was provided to Gannett Louisiana by Vitter’s campaign. Gannett hasn’t received a reply from Florich to verify she wrote the letter.
Edwards replied by email to Florich, but told Gannett during a rally in Monroe Saturday he won’t pull the ad, which began airing statewide Saturday.
“My deepest sympathies are with the family, as is my appreciation and admiration for their son making the ultimate sacrifice,” Edwards said. “But this issue is about David Vitter and all veterans. He’s attacked me week after week with ads that are false, and enough is enough.
“I’m a patient man, but I was also taught to fight back with the trust. Nobody has said our ad isn’t true. Vitter has been a political schoolyard bully for two decades, and he doesn’t like someone who will fight back.”
That was Saturday. Two days later, Edwards had a little bit different idea. Now they’re going to re-cut the ad with a different backdrop.
Why? Because the backlash against his ad has made it a problem for him.
When the ad came out on YouTube Friday, I showed it to five female friends who are not particularly politically-oriented. All five had negative reactions, three of the five said it made them think of Wendy Vitter and the kids and how they must feel seeing something that hurtful and one of them remarked about how classless it was to have those gravestones in the background.
Even a pair of Edwards-friendly Times-Picayune reporters, in an analysis piece over the weekend, said the ad reflects a campaign which doesn’t believe it’s ahead…
You don’t run an ad like this if you have a safe lead in the race.
Edwards has been running well ahead of Vitter in recent polls, but this advertisement isn’t the type of thing a campaign puts out there when it is assured a political victory.
“If John Bel Edwards is running this ad — no matter how many polls show Edwards above 50 — he is not in a comfortable position,” said Geoffrey Skelley, who is an associated editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political publication about American elections from the University of Virginia.
“He think he needs to damage Vitter so much Vitter can’t recover by election day,” said Skelley. “The Edwards campaign must feel like it really has to go for it if they really want to hold on to this lead that they have in the polls.”
Though polling shows Edwards ahead, the campaign may be nervous because of what happened in the Kentucky gubernatorial race earlier this week. Polling in that race also show the Democratic candidate in the lead, but the Republican ended up winning the election. The Kentucky results have caused some political observers to question whether polling that shows Edwards with such a substantial lead in Louisiana can be trusted.
“They fear — as they should — that the election is not over,” said Mike Henderson, a polling expert and political scientist at LSU.
And then there’s this from KEEL…
Political analyst Bernie Pinsonat expects the November 21st race to be tight and the Edwards campaign has decided to go on the offensive. “John Bel Edwards worst nightmare is for those white voters to come back home to the Republican Party and so John Bel Edwards is now going negative to stop that from happening.”
Edwards tells KEEL News that Vitter has spent millions of dollars attacking him for weeks and he adds: “the Vitter campaign has not said that this ad is false. I understand they don’t like it. But you know what, David Vitter has been the political school yard bully for a long time. He doesn’t like playing by the same rules as everybody else.”
Nobody is complaining that the ad is false. One could quibble about whether missing a vote on a resolution that passed 395-0 (meaning Vitter’s vote was hardly needed) reflects any real dereliction of duty, and one could say that since the phone call Vitter supposedly took from Deborah Jane Palfrey came earlier in the day than the vote there is no evidence that he was doing anything untoward at the time the vote was going on, but none of that is the point.
The point is that he’s a creep for running that ad. That it’s an entirely classless and below-the-belt attack on Vitter. And that using the vote on some resolution to honor the sacrifice of military killed in action was little more than a pretext to run an ad about hookers. Complete with Arlington National Cemetery in the background, at which the remains of a member of the military killed in action rest because of the diligent work of David Vitter to ensconce him there when the executive branch headed by a man John Bel Edwards renominated to the presidency was not going to allow it.
Not to mention there is no disclaimer on the ad acknowledging that neither the Department of Defense or the Army is endorsing anyone in this race, which means he’s in violation of the law for running a campaign ad with himself in uniform.
There is no polling on the ad yet, so this is all anecdotal and it’s all personal impressions at this point. But Edwards’ initial reaction was that he wasn’t going to pull the ad because it was too good for his narrative, and now he’s going to bow to objections to it.
Which is a concession to something we thought right away – that Edwards made the mistake of ceding his positioning as the nice guy with the West Point honor code by diving into the gutter with the nastiest, ugliest ad of the political season. And now that he’s shown himself to be just as much of a jerk as he accuses Vitter of being, we’re back to deciding an election on the issues and the vision of how the state ought to be governed.
Which is not where John Bel Edwards wants this race to be, because he knows that Louisianans are not with him on the issues. If he can’t be the good guy who contrasts with the “awful” David Vitter, he loses. And with this ad, he’s done that.