The Speech Vitter Needs To Make

Yesterday, a poll came out from JMC Analytics, which is the polling firm headed by our friend John Couvillon. It had John Bel Edwards opening up a 20-point lead on David Vitter by a 52-32 count.

Couvillon is a buddy of ours and he’s been a guest on the Red Bayou Show more than once, so we’re not going to criticize his work. That said, this particular poll looks like it’s way off from the true state of the race – even the Democrat push-poll firm Anzalone Liszt showed only a 12-point lead for Edwards.

But it’s fairly clear that more than a week removed from the primary Vitter is still behind Edwards, and it’s also clear Vitter has some problems he needs to alleviate if he’s going to win. He needs to address the non-stop attacks on his character, he needs to make the voters understand who his opponent is and what the difference would be between a Vitter administration and an Edwards administration, and he has to put the stakes of the race in a favorable perspective for Louisiana’s voters.

A message like the one that follows would help to do those things. How it’s delivered – a stump speech given over and over again, a series of web videos, TV and radio spots, whatever – is less important than whether it gets out.

“Friends, I wanted to take some time to talk to you about the upcoming governor’s election and what it means for us here in Louisiana. We’re less than three weeks away from one of the clearest decisions we’ve ever made in this state, and I think it’s important for everybody to understand who’s running and what’s at stake.

“What you’ve heard a lot about in this race, frankly, is me – and what you’ve heard from all the candidates running and even people who aren’t isn’t particularly flattering. It’s also, thankfully, not accurate, and I want to spend a minute on that subject.

“Look, we all have in our lives a moment of great failure and shame. Whether it was a class you failed, a friendship you destroyed, a job you lost, a business deal that went wrong – everybody suffers self-inflicted injuries at some point. And I’m the same. I’m human and I made mistakes. I had a time in my life, call it a mid-life crisis if you want, where I let a lack of humility, bad judgement and an excess of libido turn me into a person I haven’t been before or since. That was a long time ago, and it happened long before any of it became public. I’ve done my best to live it down and repair the damage I did to my marriage and my family, and we have moved on.

“And because we have, I’m reticent to talk about it. Not just because it doesn’t flatter me publicly, but because dredging up all that old stuff hurts people I love, and they’ve suffered enough from it. Most of the more salacious rumors you’ve heard about me are lies, but at the end of the day I can’t deny I made mistakes.

“I would point out, however, that the scandal-mongering my opponent and his allies have engaged in surrounds only that time period – and nothing newer. When I say I’m not that man anymore, you can believe it because they haven’t shown you any dirt on me less than 15 years old. Believe me, if they could they would. And the David Vitter of 1998 isn’t the one running for governor. This one is. You won’t have any of those problems from me. I’ve learned from my past and I’m a better husband and father than I was.”

“The other thing you’ve heard about me essentially revolves around the complaint that I attack people and run negative ads. Well, some of that is true, but let him without sin on that score throw the first stone. My opponent in the runoff actually put out an ad pre-emptively calling me a liar, after spending months savaging my character. Two other opponents in the primary said lots of negative things about me as well. I don’t take it personally, that’s politics. But I will say this – I got into politics because I wanted to do my part to reform government, and in all my years in elected office nothing has shaken my belief that if you’re going to get anything done you have got to fight.

“And fighting is what I do. When I was in the state legislature, I got term limits passed over the objections of just about everybody there and lots of them still bear a grudge. I did it by going to the public, over the heads of the politicians, and stirring up their constituents to pressure them into voting for it – at the end they were forced to accept the choice that they could either leave office in 12 years, or the voters would make them leave at the next election.

“I’ve never been a big fan of politicians, just as I know most of you share that opinion. With exceptions, they’ll waste your money when they’re not stealing it, and they’ll lie to you so long as they can get away with it. I saw that it was true when I was in the state legislature, and it’s no less true in Washington, where I’ve been for the last decade. And when you call them out on the things they do, they hate you for it and you make enemies. There are good people in politics who don’t like making enemies and as such they back down from a fight with the worst ones. I’m not that guy.

“And you’ll notice that there are a decent number of politicians and others around the state who are busy taking shots at me. What you, as a voter, should look for is what’s behind all the rhetoric. Because in nearly every case, it’s not that they think I’m a mean guy or they’re offended by the mistakes I’ve made; they couldn’t really care less and they’ve got friends who make me look like an angel. What’s really going on is they know if I get elected governor I’ll bring reform. I’ll modernize how we do business in Louisiana and the ride they’ve been taking on the gravy train will be over.

“Whether that’s a sheriff who won’t have the discretion to let favored constituents slide because we’ll modernize and standardize sales tax collections in Louisiana, which will help local governments budget better, or it’s a trial lawyer terrified because we’ll have real tort reform that cleans up our judicial system, or it’s a teachers’ union boss desperate to hang on to control over failing schools which hurt kids and ruin communities, they all know I’m a different kind of candidate.

“My opponent is going around the state calling me a third term of Bobby Jindal. That’s a poll-tested statement his people think will do him some good, because Jindal’s approval numbers aren’t the best. And I do share the same letter next to my name that the current governor does. It doesn’t go much further than that, though – I think he’s done some good things in office but I’ve been frustrated by the pace of reform over the last eight years. Voters in Louisiana threw the Democrats out of office eight years ago and this is still very much a Republican state, but we need to make that count by insuring that we’re governed according to our conservatism. The Jindal administration has cut more deals with the status quo than I’d like them to have done. I offer more than that; I’m offering to actually fix some of these persistent problems.

“I’ll fix our budget problems by undedicating funds that pile up in one account while our general fund goes woefully short and higher education and health care get cut again and again. My opponent will just raise taxes and shift more of our jobs and capital out of state. I’ll dump wasteful contracts and petty fiefdoms that have persisted year after year for no good reason other than deals politicians have cut with each other; he only offers more – a lot more – of the same. I’ll bring real tax reform, that eliminates tax breaks that don’t help our economy but at the same time lowers rates and makes Louisiana competitive with anybody in the country as a place to start a business. He has a record that shows he’ll do nothing but damage to our private-sector economy. I’ll fight crime while making sure we do some smarter things on criminal sentencing; he’s promising to dump criminals out onto the streets of communities already under siege just to meet some number he cooked up in his head, and he’s calling me every name in the book for pointing that out to you.

“I’ve been accused of lying about John Bel Edwards, but as a voter you need to examine his record and his statements. They don’t match up. You deserve leaders who will tell you the truth about how they’ll govern, and you should demand that they do so. I have been wide open about the kind of governor I will be, and I’ve put it in writing. I’ve made enemies I didn’t have to make because I’ve taken strong stances on important issues and given you the opportunity to evaluate them. My opponent has done nothing of the sort.

“Ask him where his plan is. He’ll tell you he’s pro-life, but he’s fought against de-funding Planned Parenthood and he’s supported the most pro-abortion president in American history. He says he’s pro-gun, but neither the NRA nor Gun Owners of America are very impressed; both have endorsed me. He calls himself a conservative, but he has failing grades – and badly failing grades, at that – from both LABI and the Louisiana Family Forum; he’s one of the worst legislators Louisiana has on both economic and social issues from a conservative point of view. He’s taken hundreds of thousands of dollars – maybe over a million by this point – from far-left unions like the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers. They own him, lock, stock and barrel.

“And so on November 21, you’ve got a choice between two human beings, both with failings and strengths. I won’t deny my opponent is an honorable man, but he refuses to tell you the truth about what kind of governor he would be. You know about my flaws, but I want you to consider what I offer. I’ll bring economic prosperity, better schools, smaller government, better roads, less old-school corruption, real reform along conservative lines.

“That’s what you say you want in virtually every election you vote in. I’m offering it to you. Don’t be distracted by all the yelling and screaming. We have the chance to be the state we always should have been, or we can go back to being the state our people used to move away from. Let’s make the right choice.”



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