While Vitter had the baggage of the prostitution scandal looming over his campaign, as well as dissension within the GOP ranks, he also had to deal with the unpopularity of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Unfortunately for Vitter, he was never able to escape Jindal’s shadow. While Vitter and Jindal were not political allies, Edwards was able to paint Vitter as “Jindal on steroids.”
Ironically, a few days before Vitter was defeated, Bobby Jindal accepted reality and ended his long shot presidential campaign. His campaign was an utter failure from the beginning. He never registered any significant support in the national polls and was relegated to the “kiddies’” table for all four presidential debates.
The losses for both Jindal and Vitter mean that the Louisiana Republican Party can finally start a new chapter. Since 2003, the Louisiana Republican Party has been dominated by two major figures: Bobby Jindal and David Vitter, the rising stars who comprised the political J/V team.
Jindal/Vitter achieved great victories, but at a tremendous cost. While they both were elected to statewide office, neither man has a high approval rating today. Vitter only received 44% of the vote in the Governor’s race against a previously unknown Democrat and Jindal registered only a 20% approval rating in the recent UNO poll.
Both men share some interesting characteristics. They are strong conservatives, with a very divisive political style. Neither of them are consensus builders or adept at creating political coalitions.
Jindal and Vitter are incredibly smart, but neither of them are very good communicators. They don’t convey warmth, caring or empathy that establishes connections with audiences. Not surprisingly, neither Jindal nor Vitter exhibit outgoing, likeable personalities. Thus, both of them have been political loners. In fact, to pass legislative term limits, Vitter had to take on the entire Louisiana Legislature. While it endeared him to voters, it created many political enemies that cost him support in this Governor’s race.
Both men are politically ambitious and certainly share a desire to be President. While Vitter said the Governor’s race was his last campaign, many political observers speculate that his true ambition has always been the White House.
Although these men share many attributes, they are political enemies and truly hate each other. The disagreement goes back to the 2007 announcement of Vitter’s “serious sin.” The news conference was scheduled at the same time as Bobby Jindal’s gubernatorial campaign kickoff. Both men felt the other one was trying to steal the limelight.
While other politicians are able to resolve differences and become political friends, the J/V team holds grudges that last years. They refused to bury the hatchet and their distaste for each other certainly did no favors to their constituents who benefit from politicians working together.
Along with harming their constituents, Jindal and Vitter did considerable damage to the Louisiana Republican Party. The J/V team never worked together to build the Republican Party in Louisiana. The party grew in spite of Jindal and Vitter, not because of them. The biggest reasons for the party’s growth in Louisiana in the past decade were the displacement of voters due to Hurricane Katrina and the unpopularity of Democrat President Barack Obama.
Jindal and Vitter always placed their own ambitions over their constituents or their party. For example, Bobby Jindal placed his presidential ambitions over serving his constituents as Governor. He was often outside of Louisiana, not working for the people of his state, but working on his presidential campaign.
Vitter chose to run for Governor instead of staying in the U.S. Senate. If he had stayed in his Senate position, there would be a Republican elect as Governor today. The Governor’s race opened up all of Vitter’s scandals once again for the voters and it was devastating to his chances of victory.
Surely the other Republican gubernatorial candidates, Scott Angelle or Jay Dardenne, or State Treasurer John Kennedy, would have been able to defeat John Bel Edwards in the runoff election. In fact, the only Republican candidates that Edwards could have beaten were Vitter, Jindal and David Duke, three political figures who by next year will be part of Louisiana’s political past, not its future.
Sadly, because of Vitter’s ambition, the Republican Party has now lost the Governor’s mansion and will have a competitive race for U.S Senate next year. Certainly, Democrats, emboldened by the victory of John Bel Edwards will consolidate behind one candidate, such as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in the Senate race. On the other side will be multiple GOP candidates running for the open seat.
The Senate race will be wide open and very expensive. It will also mark the first time since 2002, in which a statewide race will have neither Jindal nor Vitter playing a major role, a significant silver lining for Louisiana Republicans.