Every once in a while those following Louisiana politics get pounded with a barrage of news making heads spin.
However, this past Friday was indeed such a day.
As the candidates ended the three days of qualifying, unquestionably the story leading the pack was the US Senate race now with sixteen candidates wanting David Vitter’s seat in Washington.
On Friday, we learned that the upcoming Lt. Governor’s race now has nine faces, that the very visible Louisiana Secretary of Health and Hospitals Alan Levine will soon leave the Jindal cabinet, and that Chief of Staff Timmy Teeppel will take a leave for the upcoming election season and work his magic for the republican governors even as his boss yells “state of emergency”.
Still, the real story emerging in the center of the ring is-- will anyone replace the current junior Louisiana Senator?
Unquestionably, Senator Vitter would have loved to have continued the last few rounds in full throttle, going toe to toe with Democrat Congressman, Charlie Melancon in the republican-rich Louisiana.
After all, his poll numbers have been anywhere from 9 to 20 points in advantage with many pundits counting the minutes until victory.
So, it was quite surprising to see that now he must face Independent Rep. Ernest Wooton of Belle Chasse a former republican and most immediately, Chet Traylor a retired Supreme Court Justice and a conservative republican from North Louisiana.
The next card is the last week in August and main event is likely Vitter versus Traylor with the winner moving on probably facing Melancon and Wooton on the November election day.
Up into this time, Vitter has had a relatively easy time against Congressman Melancon, but now his focus must be on the staunch-conservative, Traylor.
Barring an uppercut that could put the reigning champ on the floor for the count, it will likely be the junior senator emerging from the fray, perhaps bloodied but ready to take on the next foes.
But until then, he has other battles needing convincing wins.
The most prominent one is another possible controversy involving a former staffer, Brent Furer.
No doubt, questions have been raised by Vitter’s detractors and the media regarding the Senator’s allowing a staffer with a very egregious record of doing violence to his girlfriend to stay under Vitter’s employment and even, arguably working on women issues particularly sensitive to women.
There are some clouds of pungent oder hovering over Vitter relating to that whole affair and will likely remain until the Senator talks openly about this issue and others haunt him.
But, in reality, probably, for now, the reddest sore could be over the senator’s ability to taint Melancon with the yellow tone of cowardice.
For months, Vitter has been able to slap Melancon silly by claiming that the democrat ran away from holding town hall meetings during raucous health care debate and about Melancon’s voting record looking like a Pelosi-lite.
Now, the image of Vitter running from the media, again, minimizes the senator’s argument that he will stand tall when the going really gets tough.
Yet, Vitter has withstood major blows before and unless there is truly something in this new Furer cut under the Senator’s eye, he will again remain able and ready for the fight—even if he is more maimed than he would have desired going into the hot summer of elections.
With over five million dollars in the bank it would be foolish for anyone to pop the cork and celebrate his ultimate demise.
This is because while Judge Traylor might have a following in North Louisiana and in the legal circles, he is not a well-known commodity among Louisiana republicans who will be casting the first vote. Traylor must raise money immediately, lots of it, as time is not waiting.
The Traylor-Vitter skirmish is a mere six weeks and counting away.
While Vitter also must also face another republican in the August GOP showdown, Nick J. Accardo, the main event for now is the one involving challenger Traylor versus Champion Vitter.
True, Senator Vitter has some major advantages—the “green”, Obama, the air of invincibility and probably the state and national republican parties.
So, Traylor must spend this summer introducing himself to and convincing those GOP voters and more importantly, to those very heavy political Washington heavy-weights and financiers with long pockets that he should carry the torch for Louisiana.
Traylor must immediately peel off the bible belt leaders and the “value-voter” organizations such as the Family Research Council and Louisiana’s own Tony Perkins for the judge to go on swinging. He also needs to gain some ayes from now-current candidate for Lt. Governor candidate and Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere, Governor Bobby Jindal and state GOP elected officials for him to to continue any real swagger.
After all, despite all of his warts, the republican senator has been able to thwart off his attackers but even to run circles around most of his “stunned” opposition.
Unless the scandals reek to high heaven and unless the judge can gain immediate momentum, David Vitter might emerge from the preliminaries somewhat wobbly and a lot poorer as he enters the match against Melancon and company but he will be weathered and ready.
The bottom line is--it is highly unlikely that anyone or anything will be able land the knock out punch” against the Five Million Dollar Man unless the Republican Party and those who fund it, finds Senator Vitter to be unsuitable.
But that has not occurred despite the boos from various corners even coming from a crowd of voiceless pachyderms.
In fact, the odds are long in his favor that he will be standing in front of the cameras on election day with more confidence than ever, looking at another six years of Washington brawls under his belt.