The Vitter campaign thought that since he had overwhelmingly beat Democrat Charlie Melancon in 2010 only three years after the breaking of the prostitution revelations, the Louisiana voters no longer cared about what David Vitter did or didn’t do with prostitutes.
The issue actually came to a head in the waning weeks of the campaign when the Edwards team promoted and then broadcasted a commercial that made it appear that David Vitter preferred prostitutes over patriots.
In part IV of the interview I conducted with the Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges, we discussed the prominence of that issue, that ad and Vitter’s response:
SABLUDOWSKY: Now some the things that you brought up in the article again, I think it was an absolutely fascinating article--I encourage everybody to read it and I certainly going to link to it--as well as all of the articles--and that was, there was a killer TV ad that I think was researched in January of this year and that actually played in the runoff. Why don't you take us through that.
BRIDGES: Sure, and a backup even further which is in 2010, Charlie Melancon runs, challenges Vitter for the Senate and brings up the prostitution issue but doesn't have a lot of money to go after him in a big way and the press doesn't about it in a big way so--it seems clear that the Vitter campaign and David Vitter himself did not expect the prostitution issue to loom large in this year's race. I think expectation in the Vitter's campaign and Vitter himself is the voters had already made up the mind on that issue and that Vitter's okay. I wrote a story that appeared in late August that was the first big piece on the prostitution issue that laid out--okay, here's what's known and here's what's not known. And the Louisiana Water Coalition, didn't know who they were at first, but we now know that it was a particular trial law firm out of Baton Rouge started to attack Vitter with some attack ads that were pretty strong. And I think that that embolden Dardenne and Angelle in the primary to go after him, particularly Angelle--who had some very strong comments about Vitter in the prostitution issue. But the Edwards campaign had what they thought was a kill shot and Mary Patricia Wray, the very abled communications director, told me they had something but they did not want to release it until the runoff. They did not want to come out in the primary because they thought it would be so strong they did not want it to come out until they were facing Vitter in a runoff. So their media consultant for the Edwards campaign Jared Arsement asked Mary Patricia to do some research because it was known back in 2007 when the Vitter prostitution story became public, that he had made five calls or received five calls from the DC madam Deborah Jean Palfrey and the discovery of those phone calls is what broke the scandal and forced Vitter to acknowledge a "very's serious sin". So I guess in 2010, the Melancon opposition research team did not discover this. Because Arsement asked Mary Patricia, as I write in my story, late one night, it was January 30, she can sleep, she calls up in her couch, there was a detail that got cut out of the story, with her dog, Coltrane was next to her, and a went through the calls, one by one, and the first four they didn't find anything interesting that day on the house floor. There was a house matching at that point. She was trying to match up did anything happen, when Vitter got the calls, did anything happen in the house. In the last one, which was sent sent at 5:30 AM, she found that Vitter was absent in a vote that day in which 28 soldiers died in operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991. And that became the juxtaposition of the ad that was aired during the LSU Alabama football game, I guess 10 days before the election, and it was just a stunning ad, and it became national news due to the stark brutality of it. I think the ad is ultimately going to be seen as being effective. The internal polling showed Vitter was rising any drop from 37% down to 30 and it kept the conversation, there was a small number of days left in the campaign--he kept the conversation focused on his character which is what the Edwards campaign wanted to, where the Vitter campaign wanted the focus to be on John bel's voting record on economic issues.
SABLUDOWSKY: I've asked a couple of pollsters as to whether or not they had a long-term impact and Vitter came back with his own response in which he said again that he had received apologies from his wife, do you have any information whether the combination of those two ads, whether or not they had any long-term impact?
BRIDGES: I don't know what the Vitter poll showed. Clearly it had an impact, we know this from the Edwards poll and the fact that Vitter felt was necessary to come out with that ad. It was an ad that he had never aired before. He had never look right into the camera and spoked so honestly or specifically on that issue. You know Steve, it's interesting, that one of the questions-- "how much is the prostitution, how much has that had an impact, how much of it impacted have on the race?" And it's very striking to see the number of ads with John Bell Edwards wife Donna. Remember there was an ad late in the campaign when Wendy Vitter spoke into the camera and attested to her husband's positive qualities. We even saw an ad from Vitter's 13 year old son Jack. And I believe that is all related to that prostitution issue, and along, again, that early ad when he looked in the camera and expressed remorse over things that he had done.