How’s this for a new standard of conduct in politics? A “values” Republican can weather a prostitution scandal in a conservative state as long as it occurs a couple years before his re-election bid in a GOP wave year.
If the Louisiana Senate race was a referendum on Democratic rule, it was also a referendum on Sen. David Vitter (R). He joined the House in 1999 as a values conservative on the right flank of the Republican party, replacing the disgraced Bob Livingston. Rumors swirled around Vitter for years, but he nonetheless moved to the Senate in 2005 replacing the retiring Democrat John Breaux. His reputation was shattered in 2007, though, when he was discovered to have solicited prostitutes in both Washington DC and Louisiana.
Tonight, however, he defeated Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon in one of the most vicious campaigns of the 2010 cycle.
Melancon served Louisiana’s third Congressional district — the Gulf region hit hardest by the BP oil spill.
Lacking statewide recognition, and swimming against a GOP tide, Melancon knew he had one way to win: remind voters of Vitter’s so-called “serious sin.”
His efforts took the form of the most punishing campaign ads of the cycle, including a two minute cable segment re-enacting Vitter’s crime and recreating the crime scene. Vitter struck back with widely panned ad, which charged Melancon providing immigrants lavish incentives to move to the United States illegally.
Vitter has made no secret of his desire to rise through the ranks of the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he’d have significant influence over energy policy (an outcome which would please his friends in the oil industry).
Melancon, a Blue Dog, served three terms in the House. He voted for the Recovery Act and for Wall Street reform, but opposed Democratic leadership on climate change legislation and the health care bill. Despite opposing his party on signature issues, though, Melancon could not escape Vitter’s efforts to tie him to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama.
|Republican David Vitter celebrates U.S. Senate win over Democrat Charlie Melancon|
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.