In Louisiana, it’s GOP Sen. David Vitter who is surprisingly vulnerable, despite looking like the odds-on favorite to become the state’s next governor throughout the summer. Between term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal’s low approval ratings and the lingering impact of Vitter’s years-old prostitution scandal, voters appear open to supporting the right type of Democratic candidate. A new poll, conducted by the Clarus Research Group, shows Vitter trailing all three of his leading opponents, including Democrat John Bel Edwards, a military veteran and former state legislator running a centrist campaign in the all-party primary.
Louisiana has a unique electoral system in which both Republican and Democratic candidates run on the same October primary ballot, with the two top finishers heading into a November runoff if no one wins over 50 percent of the vote. Edwards is heavily favored to win a spot in the expected runoff, while the Republican vote is split between Vitter and two other Republican candidates (Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and former Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle). If Vitter finishes in the top two, the stage will be set for an intriguing race that wasn’t on many pundits’ scorecards until recently.
Part of the Democratic Party’s good fortune is thanks to the caliber of GOP candidates they’re up against. In Kentucky, they’re facing Bevin, whose personal wealth allowed him to eke out a razor-thin primary victory against two Republican rivals. As the party’s nominee, he’s struggled to raise money and hasn’t spent much, either, relying on the RGA to spend more than $3 million on his behalf. In response to his lackluster campaign, the RGA announced this week it was going to stop spending money in the race—a clear warning that the party wants Bevin to get his act together, and expend some of his own fortune. (On Wednesday evening, in the wake of the intraparty criticism, Bevin announced his campaign placed a "seven-figure media buy" to push his message.)
Since winning the nomination, Bevin has struggled to articulate a positive argument for his campaign, and he has gotten sidetracked on inconsequential issues. Last week, the nominee stopped by Kentucky Democratic Party headquarters to berate a receptionist about an anti-Bevin billboard hanging on the interstate. He’s flipped his position on Medicaid expansion, softening his opposition from the primary campaign. In a radio debate held Wednesday, Bevin said he supported Ben Carson for president—even though Rand Paul was scheduled to be campaigning for him over the weekend.
The numerous blunders are badly hurting Republicans in a state where the party once held high hopes of winning back the governorship. Democrats badly lost a hotly contested Senate race last year, and the state’s politics have turned against the party—even in a governor’s race, where federal issues usually aren’t as prominent. The RGA’s ads have focused on Conway’s ties to Obama, a theme that has consistently worked against Democratic candidates in recent years.