NEW ORLEANS ‘ Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) used a Tuesday afternoon event ostensibly about the Gulf oil spill to launch a broad attack on the character and record of Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).
With two weeks before Louisiana voters choose which of the two will be Senator, Melancon is making a final push to tar Vitter as being an ineffective legislator who puts himself above the state’s citizens, and he is using the April explosion of a BP drilling rig and the resulting months-long oil spill as a foil for his attacks.
Although Melancon’s campaign has said internal polling shows the race is tightening, most public polls find Vitter has a double-digit lead over Melancon, an uphill climb that could be insurmountable.
BP prominently figures in two of Melancon’s most recent television ads. The Democrat sought to portray Vitter on Tuesday as working to protect the company, dubbing liability legislation that the Senator introduced this year ‘the David Vitter BP bailout bill.’
Vitter’s campaign fought back against Melancon’s claim, arguing in a memo that the bill ‘addresses the immediate problem by eliminating any cap for BP’s liability and expediting the claims process.’
Democratic operatives in the state said this week that Melancon’s efforts to tie Vitter to BP could provide him with a significant boost, particularly in the state’s southern half, where much of the population has been affected by the spill.
‘It definitely gives us an advantage,’ one operative said, arguing that the public is more apt to believe that Republicans favor corporate interests.
The BP attacks are part of Melancon’s final push, in which Democrats appear to be throwing virtually everything they have in their arsenal at Vitter. For instance, Melancon argued that Vitter has been ineffective legislatively, saying he has ‘introduced a couple hundred bills, but he hasn’t passed anything. We’re talking about being effective for the state of Louisiana.’
Melancon even took a shot at Vitter’s character, accusing him of misrepresenting Melancon’s efforts to lift a cap on BP’s liability for the spill. ‘Vitter plays rhetorical games … because he’s a Rhodes scholar, because he thinks he’s so bright he thinks the people of Louisiana are not smart enough to the games that he’s playing,’ he said.
Vitter spokesman Luke Bolar rejected the claims and sought to tie Melancon to President Barack Obama.
‘Charlie Melancon has supported every taxpayer-funded bailout, the trillion dollar Obama stimulus, wildly irresponsible Obama budget, and taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants,’ Bolar said in a statement. ‘These last couple weeks, Louisiana voters are really tuned in, and at every corner of Louisiana they are thanking Senator Vitter for fighting for what’s important to them.’