The No. 1 rule in politics is to define your opponent with voters before the opponent has a chance to do so. Although the election is still some 13 months away, the U.S. Senate race is already at a fever pitch. Internet videos, e-mail blasts and direct mail solicitations are being lobbed by both David Vitter and Charlie Melancon. Without question, Vitter has been the aggressor in the past 60 days since Melancon’s announced candidacy. Vitter has been particularly aggressive with a near daily press release offering some criticism of Melancon. Vitter’s attacks have tried to paint the moderate Melancon as a liberal who is at the beck and call of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama — hardly the case given his opposition to both Obama’s energy bill and vote against the public option health reform bill. On the surface, Vitter’s strategy (given his checkered past after being outed in the D.C. prostitution scandal) appears to be: “I may not be great, but Melancon is worse.” The incumbent is hoping voters will absolve him of his moral failings in order to be the protector of their pocketbook. Melancon, for his part, has chosen not to engage Vitter on a daily basis, and has reportedly been aggressively raising money nationwide. Sources familiar with the Melancon campaign say he will close the September fundraising cycle with between $700,000-$800,000 raised this period.
Readily acknowledging this could be a real stretch, Peep speculates that there may be a more complex, secondary strategy at work. Vitter, holding a $2 million lead on fundraising to the late starting Melancon, is attempting to induce the campaign media war to right now, hoping to lure Melancon into spending money to respond to attacks more than a year before voters go to the polls. Peep thinks that Vitter’s strategy is to have Melancon throw his best shots at this juncture, hoping that voters become callous or immune to Melancon’s certain attacks on Vitter’s character and suitability to be a U.S. Senator, given his sexual indiscretions. It would also have the effect of depleting Melancon financially, leaving him little monetary ammo for the time period when voters will actually be paying attention to the election. It would be a very clever strategy by Vitter, but so far Melancon is not biting, opting to keep his cash and nuclear arsenal of attacks on Vitter over the D.C. prostitute issue in the can until a later date. Another reason, Peep speculates, is that Melancon does not want to damage Vitter so early on that Republicans dump him as the party’s nominee, thereby choosing someone who Melancon would have a difficult time attacking credibly — someone like a Jay Dardenne.
As Vitter mounts more and more attacks on Melancon, trying to link him to Pelosi and Obama, particularly given Obama’s unpopularity in Louisiana, Melancon will have to make a judgment call on what sort of toll the attacks are taking on his candidacy if left unanswered. Just how many body blows he can take accusing him of being a liberal is a calculated decision Melancon needs to make before unleashing his attacks on Vitter. It’s the same strategy Muhammad Ali employed in the boxing ring, calling it the “Rope a Dope,” i.e., having his opponent exhaust his resources in the early rounds while he simply covered up and did not respond in kind.
Stay tuned folks: This one will make Rocky and Apollo Creed look like a juvenile Golden Gloves event.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.