Skip to main content

David Vitter addresses a small group of people (May 22, 2012)
Political observers have long expected Sen. David Vitter to run for governor when Bobby Jindal is term-limited out in 2015, so Tuesday's announcement that he will indeed do so is an anticlimactic un-surprise. Since the seat will be open, plenty of Vitter's fellow Republicans are also likely to be interested. The list includes—but is not limited to—Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, ex-Rep. Rodney Alexander, State Treasurer John Kennedy, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who commanded the federal government's Katrina relief task force. Democrats will have a hard time competing in this red-trending state, but one intriguing option is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Louisiana doesn't conduct traditional primaries but instead has all candidates from all parties face one another in a so-called "jungle primary," with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff if no one clears 50 percent. Limited early polling shows Vitter as the strongest Republican, which is due in part to his higher name recognition. Certainly he's the best-known candidate on that list we rattled off just above. But if you're most familiar with Vitter thanks to his notorious admission that he had "sinned" when the D.C. Madam scandal broke loose in 2007, you might be wondering how Vitter wound up in the pole position for such a competitive race.

Part of the answer is that Vitter chose to weather out his ordeal, knowing that his next re-election campaign was several years away. Indeed, by the time 2010 rolled around, memories of Vitter's involvement with prostitutes had faded and he cruised to re-election. But just as important is Vitter's assiduous cultivation of the Republican establishment throughout Louisiana. Writing in the New Republic last year, Marin Cogan explained Vitter's fascinating ascendance:

Jindal was elected to the governor's mansion later that year [2007], while the national press excoriated Vitter. But Vitter had already begun laying the groundwork for his ascendance in his home state. In his days as a state legislator, he had successfully pushed for term limits for legislators, forcing many of the lawmakers he had served alongside to give up their seats in 2007. Vitter began recruiting conservative candidates to replace them and helped fund campaigns through the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (LCRM), a PAC he had co-founded a couple years earlier. He also personally reached out to Democrats in conservative districts, encouraging them to get ahead of the state's rightward turn.

The Louisiana legislature didn't go red in 2007, but, thanks to a successful election cycle and a few high-profile Democratic defections, the House flipped in 2010. A year later, the state Senate followed suit. It was the first time Republicans controlled the legislature since Reconstruction. Scott Hobbs, a Louisiana-based political consultant, estimated that Vitter helped "at least sixty to seventy percent [of Republicans in the legislature] in some way" between 2007 and 2011. Now Baton Rouge is filled with Vitter-friendly pols, sometimes referred to as the "fiscal hawks." They've made Jindal's life a lot harder, attacking him for using accounting gimmicks to balance the state budget. Vitter has gotten in on the action too, castigating the governor for "kicking the can down the road—the sort of bad spending policy I'm constantly fighting in Washington."

So Vitter not only helped oversee a changing of the guard in the legislature, but he ensured that these new cadres would be loyal to him. Vitter may seem like a guy dumb enough to get caught up in a high-profile prostitution bust, but this shows he's a whole lot savvier than many people think.

Conventional wisdom chalks up Lyndon Johnson's ability to bend people to his will to his domineering style, but in reality, Johnson succeeded in getting things done because he'd done so many favors during his long career that everyone owed him. Vitter's following that path in Louisiana, and it will make him a force to be reckoned with on the campaign trail.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 09:40 AM PST.

Also republished by Louisiana Kossacks and Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site