Thursday, August 26, 2010

Louisiana U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Louisiana U.S. Senate

August 26, 2010
68 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican

In recent years, Louisiana has faced Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the B.P. oil spill, causing the roles of the state's U.S. Senators to be even more important in helping the state's residents rebuild and recover. While the state has elected exactly one Republican to the U.S. Senate in it's history, that Senator is currently a significant favorite for reelection.

In 2004, Republican David Vitter was elected to the Senate under Louisiana's old "jungle primary" system to become the first GOP candidate to ever win that office. The Bayou State has now changed to a more traditional primary and general election system and this Saturday will see those contests on the ballot. Vitter is being challenged by a couple of opponents, including a former state Supreme Court Justice, but is expected to cruise to renomination.

Luckily for Vitter, even stronger Republican opposition did not develop in this race, though it had been talked about for some time. In 2007, the freshman Senator apologized after his name was found among a list of clients for the infamous "D.C. Madam." Vitter spoke of committing sins before his election to the Senate, without going into specifics, and claimed that he had long since taken steps to rebuild his marriage. The prostitution scandal hurt Vitter's reputation as a family values conservative and almost certainly any ambition he may have once held to be on a national GOP ticket, but despite the attempts of liberals to keep the story alive, it does not seem to have been a fatal blow for his Senate future in Louisiana.

However, Vitter will be facing a respectable Democrat opponent in Congressman Charlie Melancon, who in 2006, captured a Republican leaning district. Melancon was a fairly easy reelection winner in 2008, but perhaps seeing the writing on the wall of a difficult campaign this year, decided instead to take his chances on a statewide bid. While many thought that Vitter could be vulnerable due to the revelations about his personal life, it has still seemed like an uphill battle for Melancon all along, and perhaps is worth the thought that maybe the exciting experience a statewide campaign is what he was seeking as part of wanting to leave Washington D.C.

Melancon is easily one of the more conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill, and has gone to great lengths in this campaign to play up his bona fides on social issues, but Louisiana is still a conservative state, and favors the GOP even more after the relocation of many African-Americans in the New Orleans area in the wake of Katrina.

The Democrat's campaign released an internal poll showing an extremely close race with Vitter, but that has to be considered suspect since every other public poll shows Vitter with a double digit advantage. Ultimately, the race may not be a complete blowout, but this would be the wrong year for a Democrat, no matter how conservative, to be expected to pull off an upset in the Deep South.

Vitter campaign link:

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 3 D, 15 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 43 D, 38 R