In a recruiting coup for the DSCC, Democrats’ #1 potential challenger to Hookerlover David Vitter, Congressman Charlie Melancon, has officially entered the 2010 Senate race:Congressman Melancon’s announcement stresses his business background, strong family life, public safety & veterans’ benefits, and his centrist record. Where Vitter votes with the extreme right wing 100% of the time, Congressman Melancon will present himself as someone who can bring people together to the middle, a new John Breaux. From discussing the strength of the Melancon family to closing the video with “I’ll be a Senator that you can be proud of,” there are definitely undertones of David Vitter’s “very serious sin.”In June, Research 2000 polled this potential match-up, and found Vitter under 50%, leading 48-41. R2K put Vitter’s favorable-unfavorable at 49-42 (+7) and Congressman Melancon’s at 43-18 (+25). In July, Public Policy Polling polled this potential match-up, and also found Vitter under 50%, leading 44-32. PPP put Vitter’s favorable-unfavorable at 44-39 (+5) and his job approve-disapprove at 44-36 (+8). The poll found that only 38% of Louisianans believe that Vitter deserves another term, while 47% feel it’s time to give someone else a chance.While polling provides Vitter only with a very surmountable lead, Vitter’s fundraising lead is also not remotely impossible to overcome. As of the end of June, Vitter had $3.22 million on hand. At the same point, Congressman Melancon’s campaign account had $1.23 million on hand – not a bad starting point, approaching half of Vitter’s bankroll.
By voting with the extreme right wing on just about everything, Vitter is counting on Louisiana’s electorate having moved to the right much faster than it actually has. Remember, just last year, Senator Mary Landrieu was supposed to be in the fight of her life, and she wound up winning her race by 6 points and 121,000 votes, by far the largest margin of victory of any of her Senate wins. Voters in Louisiana will have a choice between Vitter’s far right wing record (again, simply to make up for his “very serious sin” that he has yet to answer for) and Congressman Melancon’s John Breaux-style centrism. As the campaign proceeds, I think Louisianans will largely come to agree that it’s time to replace Hookerlover.
UPDATE: Democratic State Senator Eric La Fleur had been considering a 2010 Senate bid, so Senate Guru contacted him to see if he was still considering a bid in light of Congressman Melancon’s announcement. His response:
My wife and 1 year old visited Washington DC in June and met with a series of consultants and potential staff members for our campaign. After that visit, I spoke and met with both Charlie Melancon and Jim Bernhart. It was our decision that we would not run if either of these serious and like minded candidates decided to enter the race. Following those meetings, I understood that Charlie planned to enter the race with a well organized, and well financed campaign team. Most importantly, I think that he has the right credentials and philosophy that Louisiana voters want and like. He is the type of person that I know Louisiana taxpayers will support. In light of the reputation Vitter has earned for himself and the degree to which he has embarrassed Louisiana, I expect that fiscal and social conservatives regardless of party affiliation will support the level headed and more reasonable candidate, Charlie Melancon.
I would not put money on winning this race, personally. And furthermore, we don’t just need more Democrats; we need better Democrats (after all, isn’t that the whole idea behind Joe Sestak’s candidacy in Pennsylvania?) If Melancon were to win and then start voting exactly like Landrieu, how would it further the progressive cause? I tell ya, this health care debate has brought into stark relief the desperate need to elect real progressives, not DINO’s or blue dogs.There are some states that have the potential to send true progressives to the senate, but at this point, Louisiana isn’t one of them. I would say that Pennsylvania does have the potential to elect a progressive, as do New Hampshire, Ohio, and even Colorado (if Andrew Romanoff would jump in already!) Even North Carolina has some potential to elect a progressive, although any such outright declarations of progressivism would have to be somewhat muted in that state. But, my point is, whether Melancon wins or Vitter gets re-elected, that’s one vote in the senate that is guaranteed notto be progressive.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I would love to see David Vitter get the boot. And, yes, a senator who votes correctly on some of the major issues is better than one who votes the wrong way all the time. I’m just saying that it’s hard for me, as a progressive, to get fired up about Melancon’s candidacy. When next fall rolls around, I’ll put my volunteering efforts into the campaigns of Hodes, Sestak, and hopefully Brunner and Romanoff; I’m working for progress!
I hear you.
But progressives should still cheer his candidacy, and here’s why — the National Republican Senatorial Committee will be forced to spend millions defending this seat, depriving them of funds to target our vulnerable incumbents and aggressively defend their open seats. Millions shipped to Louisiana mean millions less to hit our vulnerable incumbents like Chris Dodd, millions less to defend open seats such as New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, and Missouri, and millions less to defend their vulnerable incumbents like Richard Burr.Do we want him in the Senate? Some of you will appreciate the odd vote he gets Democrats, votes that Vitter will never deliver. So on that front, he’d be marginally better than the Republican incumbent. But his victory would also empower the worst kind of corporatist Democrat, and if we are to see truly progressive legislation enacted, we’ll need to rid our party of this corrosive breed. While in the minority, I was in the former camp, now with bigger majorities, I’m in the latter. Current events are showing us how damaging the bad Democrats have been for our agenda.
But regardless of where you fall in that calculation, it’s great seeing Republicans forced to spend heavily to defend this seat. It’ll definitely pay dividends elsewhere on the national electoral map.
First off, yeah, Melancon’s candidacy helps progressives by forcing the NRSC and national GOP donors to focus money on Vitter that they’d rather spend on Ohio, Connecticut, or elsewhere. (It also forces the GOP to defend Vitter’s personal flaws in light of their sanctimony.)
But Melancon will be a frustrating Democrat in the Senate. I don’t think he’d be Ben Nelson bad. I think he’d be John Breaux frustrating.
It might be hard to get fired up about a Melancon candidacy when there are better Dems running in other competitive races, like Joe Sestak and others.
But Vitter is as close to a 100% pro-wingnut, anti-Obama vote as there will be this cycle. Replacing him with a blue dog Dem is a worthwhile upgrade if a more progressive option is simply untenable.
The key question to ask is which will be harder in the coming years: replacing Vitter with a real progressive in 2016 or convincing a Senator Melancon to inch left on key votes. I think the latter, and not by a small margin.
Beyond that, I see broader value in further demoralizing the GOP by reducing their Senate caucus to the mid-30s. Assuming that some real health care reform gets passed and unemployment shrinks (as it should in the months ahead as the lagging indicator to the stock market), Dem poll numbers should increase, and Dodd-Reid-Lincoln-Illinois will be increasingly safe. And pick-up possibilities in New Hampshire, Ohio, Missouri, etc. will look even more favorable.
With the Democratic caucus at 60 seats, the Liebermans and Bayhs and Ben Nelsons feel empowered to jerk around. With 64-65 seats, we reduce their influence – and even increase the weight of primary threats.
And, hey, giving Vitter the boot (and using it as a prelude to give John Ensign the boot in 2012) would be so enjoyable.
As usual, Guru, you are terrific at taking a few steps back and seeing the bigger picture. Your points are definitely valid. I still probably won’t feel fired up enough to make phone calls or write letters on Melancon’s behalf, but I’ll certainly be rooting for him.
wait… why such hatred against Melancon?
Whenever i go on this site it seems as if the only dem candidates that people are willing to support are those of “true progressives” and that we need to pressure or primary any Democrat who doesnt fall into lockstep with progressive ideals. FIrst of all it is extremely stupid as not all areas of the US are progressive (SC,OK for example) and running progressive candidates would be a waste of time and money. Secondly it is super hypocritical of us to do this because when the GOP was in power, we attacked them for being mindless puppets who marched in lockstep with Bush (which they did and now we are trying to force dems to do the same thing. We should be a broad tent party wich accepts not only liberals but also moderates and conservatives. If we do this we can make sure to stay in power for a generation against a GOP which has become more and more wingnut over time. We worked hard to achieve that goal and now it seems like some progressives just want to roll over moderates and eliminate them even if we lose their seat (ben nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh anyone). We should be supporting Charlie Melancon because he has a legit chance to beat Vitter and eliminate a crazy wingnut, just like i find the Joe Sestak primary against Specter incredibly stupid because even if i prefer Sestak to Specter, if Sestak beats him then no Repub will ever be willing to switch parties again and it makes us look completely partisan> Plus Specter has a better chance of beating toomey and his people then Sestak and makes the DSCC spend money on a race that it otherwise wouldnt have to. By threatening primaries and attacking moderates as ‘fake dems” makes us look stupid and gives the GOP ammo for future elections.
Who expressed hatred? There is a HUGE difference between hatred and a simple lack of enthusiasm.Furthermore, if you go back and reread my first comment in greater depth, you’ll see that I am not advocating for running progressive candidates in states where they stand no chance of winning. Instead, I indicate my support for progressive candidates who can win– such as Paul Hodes in New Hampshire and Jennifer Brunner (assuming she wins the primary) in Ohio. And, you’ll notice that I didn’t say that I wouldn’t support Melancon– I just said that I won’t actively campaignfor him.
If there’s any lesson that we progressives have learned from the past election cycle, it’s that numbers aren’t enough. Reaching the magic number of 60 in the senate is useless unless actual progressive legislation can get passed. And if a significant portion of the caucus is comprised of blue dogs and DINO’s, that can’t happen. What I’m saying is, we need to add progressive Democrats from states where they can get elected. Call that “overly partisan” if you want, but what good is a Democratic majority unless it can produce some actual results? If all we do is wring our hands over whether or not we’re appearing too partisan, we’ll never make any headway!
Furthermore, I obviously can’t speak for the entire blogosphere, but, personally, my issue with the Bush-era Republicans wasn’t the fact that they were “overly partisan.” It was the fact that they were consistently wrong. I don’t care which party a politician is from– if he or she mishandles the economy, lies in order to start a war, barely lifts a finger when an entire city falls prey to a natural disaster, stubbornly opposes health care reform for no reason other than to be opposed to something, and continually drums up hatred of women, minorities, and gays with the craven goal of scoring political points . . . well, I’m going to stand entirely opposed to that agenda. I don’t think it’s wrong of me to hope– and, more importantly, invest my time and energy– for candidates who will work for the causes that I believe in. Call it partisan if you want. I just call it progress.
I never said that you could not support Hodes or Brunner, nor did i in any way say it was bad for you to be anti-republican (I am too), nor did i defend the Bush administrations positions on the important issues of our times (Iraq, Gay Marriage, Abortion, Health Care, Social Security, Womens rights etc…). I did not say that we shouldnt try to elect progressive senators in areas where we can. In fact i never even addressed you personnally, i was making a general statement comments such as having good dems and bad dems, and that Bayh and Nelson are somehow being annoying by trying to express their ideas or that we should force everyone to walk in lockstep with what i consider to be a superb president. The democratic party must be a wide tent party if it wants to continue to dominate the landscape as we have in the last two elections. Plus if we increase our majority ( which we will do if we run candidates like Melancon in conservative states) he will vote with us on 60% of the issues instead of 0% for Vitter. Engaging in these Caveman style politics where we beat people into voting into something angers voters and causes resentment from within the caucus. I was saying that we need to be invested in trying to change the political demographics of the U.S to make it more progressive and the only way to do that is if we can get Dems elected in those solidly conservative states which over time will moderate the politics of that region.
You are perfectly right to sya you dont have to support melancon, this is a free country, but if we dismiss him as a bad dem or fake dem then we wil squander an oportunity to take out Vitter, a hypocritical wignut who i absolutely loathe. If you truely want progress then you should concentrate on winning all possible races not just those which will elect completely progressive ones.
tjones, he answered all the concerns in your previous post
With all due respect, there’s no misrepresentation there.Further, CC is right. Politics isn’t about who wins the most seats, it’s about advancing policies that improve people’s lives and the well being of the country. For the longest time almost all of us held our tongues on disagreements and supported conservative democrats, in areas where they could be elected and in several where we could have done better. Now though, with the healthcare debate in particular, we’re seeing that more and more Democrats isn’t enough, because we’ve got sixty seats, a fillibuster proof majority, and still can’t get the damn thing through. To that extent, which is more dangerous from a public policy perspective? A crazy and disgraced wingnut in the minority or someone who’s almost as conservative in the majority with no intention of ruining that image? Melancon has already opposed a public option, and a great deal more of the agenda we need to advance right now, so asking if we want this guy in the majority is a legitimate question.
Check out Blue Arkansas:
ARDem you are right to say that Melancon would be no help to us in the HealthCare debate
I’m inclined to agree.
I completely agree
We sure don’t seem to be doing a very good job convincing the ones we already have, and remember, Melancon is already on the anti-public option bandwagon in the House. These guys are going to work for the people that line the wallets of their campaigns, that’s the bottom line (one more reason to support public campaign finance). That said, I agree with you that we need a diversity of views in the party, but I think this particular line of thinking is detrimental to us in the long run. The bottom line is that people want results from their elected officials, they don’t care if it’s bipartisan or a particular ideological brand just so long as it works for them. The conservative Democrats though end up hemming and hawing and fighting good legislation, watering it down to the point of ineffectiveness or killing it, and I think that ends up undermining support for the party, something I think is happening now. A better way to go, I think, is to find as many different faces, backgrounds, and personalities as possible. The future for our party isn’t the conservative white guy, it’s African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities along with women, LGBT Americans and people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Diversity can definately help us, but it needs to be real diversity.
Check out Blue Arkansas:
Click here for the new senate guru blog…