Skip to comments.General Russell Honore To Run Vs David Vitter In Louisiana US Race?
Posted on 08/28/2009 7:33:57 AM PDT by TornadoAlley3
In a breaking story, The Louisiana Weekly and Bayoubuzz.com have learned that the hero of Hurricane recovery, General Russell Honore is seriously considering entering the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate seat against incumbent David Vitter. Honore, a Republican since the Reagan Administration and a registered Louisiana voter from his Zachary home, has spoken to friends and supporters in the last two weeks signaling that he is, according to one, "more than 50% sure that he will run."
The news comes mere hours after Third District Congressman Charlie Melancon announced his firm intention to be the Democratic challenger to David Vitter in the fall of 2010. Melancon, who represents the critical swing areas of Central Acadiana--a region known for crowing statewide candidates--has already proven a serious obstacle for the incumbent Senator to keep his job. Even if Vitter should emerge victorious from the closed Republican primary, a bruising fight against Honore could leave the Senator financially and visibly weakened before the onslaught of a Moderate Democrat like Melancon--one of the leaders of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Caucus in the House.
While polls show Vitter as the clear favorite in both the primary and the general election, one very senior Louisiana Republican predicted that if Honore runs, "He wins." As that GOP party elder further explained to the www.louisianaweekly.comand Bayoubuzz on the promise of confidentiality, "All he has to say is 'Stuck on Stupid', and Vitter is toast."
Military voters, who constitute a plurality of the Republican electorate, will flock to Honore, and the party leader in question also believes that the General's race will matter to primary voters less than his social stands. Honore admitted through aides to the Weekly that he is "pro-life and pro-family".
In fact, Charlie Melancon's announcement video centered on his relative social and fiscal conservatism as well, citing his support for small business tax cuts, a balanced budget, higher military and veteran spending. He only said he was a Democrat once, but with the words, "I'm a pro-life, pro-gun, Southern Democrat. I have an "A" rating with the NRA, and I have been an avid hunter and fisherman my entire life. I am a proud centrist -- a Blue Dog -- a straight-up-the-middle fighter for he little guy who is struggling to make ends meet. That's why my most rewarding moment as a Congressman came from a partnership with private organizations, Republicans, and Democrats after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We came together to alleviate the suffering and ensure people received the help they needed. Party politics was the last thing on my mind. I got into public service to help people, period."
The word "Independent" was Melancon's most common theme in his announcement speech, eschewing partisanship with the words, "Well, first, those insiders in Washington need to spend A LOT less time scoring political points or sticking it to the other guy -- they need to come out of their corners and bring people together. Because no matter if you are in Mamou or Monroe, it's not whether it's a Republican idea or a Democratic idea - the only question is: does it make sense for Louisiana?"
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez also sounded distinctly non-partisan as he endorsed Melancon praising his "Independence", a curious turn of phrase from a party leader--unless he is trying to help a Democrat in an increasingly Republican leaning state.
Vitter countered playing that specific partisan card, however. Less than an hour after Melancon officially jumped into the race, Vitter was citing Melanconâs votes for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, his endorsement of Obama, and his 80%+ voting record with the Democratic Party. He also attacked the Third District Congressman on health care stands, drawing an instant retort from Eric Schultz at the DSCC, reminding the media that Melancon not only opposed Obama's public option on health care reform, but that Vitter had admitted publicly that the two men had essentially the same position on the issue.
The challenge for David Vitter are polls that on the surface look strong, but may turn weak when faced by a strong primary challenger like Honore' and a general election contender like Melancon. No one has polled Honore in a head to head contest with Vitter. None the less, the Senator's internal polling with Republican primary voters remains strong, over seventy percent, yet only half of the general electorate strong approves of the job the incumbent U.S. Senator is doing, on the surface a strange result in an increasingly GOP state that went for McCain by twenty points.
The DSCC Chair reported courted Melancon with the truism that John Treen and others have often noted about the nature of Louisiana state elections, "All things being equal, Cajuns vote for Cajuns. "In every statewide race where a candidate faced someone "who was either Cajun or represented Acadiana in Congress", he or she lost, regardless of which political party in which he or she was registered..
The only two historic exceptions to that rule, the one-time political strategist and brother of Gov. Dave Treen noted, were the first Roemer/Edwards Gubernatorial race, where extenuating factors of court cases and corruption sealed the incumbent's fate and the 2004 Senate race where Democratic divisions did essentially the same thing.
U.S. Senator David Vitter likely hopes that extenuating circumstances will also protect his incumbency against his newest Cajun challenger, Congressman Charlie Melancon, though they are less likely than in the past, especially if the incumbent has a bruising primary battle against a General who was dubbed "the John Wayne who saved us after Katrina". Honore has the status of a demi-God amongst some voters who were trapped in a devastated city after the storm. His presence and command rescued and fed thousands trapped in the aftermath of the floodwaters breech.
Add a primary battle with such a figure that might weaken GOP resolve and empty Vitter's campaign coffers, the incumbent goes into the General Election in a far different state than most incumbents typically enjoy. Consequently with Melancon's strong base in Acadiana, he could draw swing votes from Cajuns that might otherwise vote for Vitter. Match that with Democratic leaning New Orleans and the skepticism that still remains in North Louisiana about casting a ballot for a candidate from Metairie (despite Vitter's tireless attempts to reverse those attitudes in countless campaign sweeps).
Moreover, Vitter won his 2004 race after bitter divisions in the Democratic ranks minimized liberal turnout while Vitter as the only Republican candidate benefited from George W. Bush's coattails. And, his just over 51% victory came in large part because of motivated voters in his First Congressional district who turned out, not only for the Presidential race, but to put Bobby Jindal in (his brief sojurn in) Congress.
Melancon, though, has a difficult task before him, regardless of Vitter's weaknesses. The incumbent Senator has amassed a multimillion dollar warchest that even the DSCC's help and Melancon's popularity with powerful Louisiana constituencies like sugarcane farmers can do little to match. Next year's election, as a midterm, will likely be a referendum on Democrats in Congress, whose approval ratings have fallen to almost a tie with the GOP. Vitter can frame himself as a check on excessive spending and brand Melancon to the contrary thanks to his vote for the Obama stimulus plan.
And, while Mary Landrieu's 2008 re-election showed that electing a Democrat to the U.S. Senate remained possible in increasing Republican-leaning Louisiana, she had Obama's coattails. Now according to the latest Gallup polls, the President's job approval rating stands at 52%, drastically down from the overwhelming support he had at his inaugural. That signals a public backlash and a GOP revival. Of course, if Honore is the GOP candidate instead of Vitter, he could benefit from these trends. But then again, so could the incumbent Senator.
Still, Vitter cannot do what others like Woody Jenkins and Suzie Terrell attempted with Mary Landrieu, brand Melancon as socially out of sink with Louisiana voters. The Napoleonville Democrat is ardently pro-life and opposes same sex marriage.
And, all things being equal, Cajuns DO vote for Cajuns. Whether Republicans will vote for an African-American hero General over their own incumbent GOP Senator remains to be seen.
I would much rather see him take landreiu’s seat.\ also. But Honore is a GREAT man.
I never heard of this gentleman before. He sounds like he would have been an ideal opponent for Landrieu last year rather than party switcher Kennedy.