EDITORIALS

OUR OPINION: Vitter vs. Melancon...and Dardenne?

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The Senate race in 2010 for the seat currently held by Republican Sen. David Vitter is just around the corner, politically speaking, and is shaping up into a heated multi-faceted race.

Louisianans who like their political contests fast and hard fought like a good horse race, and those who want the outcome to ultimately yield better government, may find both of their needs satisfied next year.

If Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne joins Rep. Charlie Melancon in vying for Vitter’s job, the race will have a number of different angles to keep voter interest.

Vitter, the incumbent, is sitting on over $4 million in campaign funding, more than his challengers at this point, but not nearly enough to get him elected if overall voter dissatisfaction continues to surface over the prostitution scandal that continues to dog him.

If the race remains a classic Democrat challenger, Melancon, vs. Republican incumbent, Vitter, event, it will be a horse race.

Melancon is very strong in Acadiana, and he earned his spurs as a rookie congressman all over south Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Voters in this scenario will perceive Melancon as a moderate Democrat with conservative Blue Dog fiscal leanings. It is unlikely that many voters will ever consider Vitter anything more than an ultra-conservative Republican. How many ultra conservatives are there in Louisiana?

We may find out if Dardenne, a popular state official, experienced campaigner and moderate conservative, jumps into the ring. He would be a major drain on Vitter’s voting base.

Dardenne is said to be conducting a major poll to see what potential voters think about him throwing his hat into the race. If he takes the plunge, the voter exodus from Vitter’s camp will begin, and the only question will be how many remain with the Rhodes Scholar turned arch-conservative and tainted family values senator on election day.

A race between Vitter, Melancon and Dardenne is bound to turn ugly. We suspect that if Vitter is the bigger mudslinger, it will backfire and cost him the election.

We would like to see a candidate debate no matter how many candidates run for the Senate seat.

A Vitter-Melancon debate would likely be won by Vitter, if he can maintain civility. Vitter would lose the debate advantage if he faces both Dardenne and Melancon. Nobody relishes debating a Rhodes scholar, but Dardenne is sharp on his feet and will use his sense of humor to good advantage.

It’s too early to predict a winner, if only because we don’t know if Dardenne or some other Republican will be in the running.

Suffice it to say this race is shaping up to be a rip-snorting classic between moderate and ultra-conservative voters and candidates.