A week that began with the new allegations involving a former New Orleans escort against Sen. David Vitter will end with the Republican’s appearance on the ballot Saturday in Louisiana’s heated contest to replace the state’s term-limited governor, Republican Bobby Jindal.
But despite the intense focus on Vitter’s personal woes by his opponents and outside groups, he is on the cusp of weathering the storm yet again. At least until a runoff next month.
Polling suggests he leads the two other Republicans in the race, positioning him for a likely matchup against Democrat John Bel Edwards on Nov. 21. But the campaign has taken a serious toll on Vitter’s favorability.
In the week before Election Day, old political wounds that have never entirely healed involving his 2007 prostitution scandal in Louisiana and his number being found on a call list for the “D.C. madam” were torn open once again.
Last weekend, the New Orleans-based blog American Zombie posted video of an interview with Wendy Ellis, an escort who unveiled new allegations about a relationship she had previously claimed to have with Vitter. Vitter’s campaign vehemently denied her claims , but that has not kept them from coming up in a race that has featured a renewed focus on his personal woes.
“We have a stench that is getting ready to come over Louisiana, if we elect David Vitter as governor,” said Republican Scott Angelle, a member of the state’s utility regulating commission, during a debate Wednesday that Vitter skipped in response to a question about higher education.
Wednesday night’s debate was the seventh in the race. But while Angelle, Republican Lieutenant Gov. Jay Dardenne and Edwards were facing off in Louisiana, Vitter — who has participated in only two debates — was absent.
For at least part of the election’s final week, Vitter’s only personal presence on the ground in Louisiana was in the form of television ads. Physically, he was instead in Washington, D.C., for Senate votes.
Here , Senate Republicans tried to give Vitter a boost with an attempt to bring up a measure sponsored by Vitter to target so-called sanctuary cities that offer a safe haven for illegal immigrants. But the move was blocked by Senate Democrats .
Preparing for a possible month-long battle between the two, the Republican Governors Association – a group that would likely come to Vitter’s defense if he is on the ballot against Edwards – launched a new ad campaign in the state aiming its barbs directly at the Democrat.