With only 12 days remaining in Louisiana’s gubernatorial race, both John Bel Edwards (D) and David Vitter (R) are pulling out all the stops, looking for an advantage. When it comes to taking their messages to the airwaves, it’s led the candidates to take some interesting chances.
Vitter, for example, a Republican U.S. senator, recently aired an ad accusing Edwards of wanting to release “thugs” from state prisons – an attack that prompted an angry response from the state NAACP, which called the ad “demeaning and racial.”
For his part, Edwards, a state legislative leader and retired Army Ranger, initially responded with an ad telling voters, “David Vitter wouldn’t last a day at West Point.” Edwards’ follow-up spot, however, hits Vitter even more aggressively.
Voters in the Bayou State woke up Saturday to a damning ad from Vitter’s Democratic rival, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, attacking the Republican senator for his involvement in the “D.C. Madam” scandal. […]The ad, titled “The Choice,” contrasts Edwards’ military experience with Vitter’s solicitation of escorts – sometimes, the ad implies, at the expense of his congressional duties.
It’s about as brutal an ad as you’ll see in this or any other election cycle. Edwards “answered our country’s call,” the narrator tells viewers, while Vitter “answered a prostitute’s call, minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom.”
It concludes, “David Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots. Now, the choice is yours.”
Keep in mind, this isn’t the first election cycle after Vitter, who ran as a “family-values conservative,” acknowledged his “serious sin” with hookers, but Democrats have generally been unsure how best to go after the Republican. In the 2010 Senate race, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), considered a top-tier challenger to the scandal-plagued incumbent, tried an indirect approach: the challenger argued that Vitter unfairly played by his own set of rules.
In one particularly memorable commercial from 2010, the Melancon campaign focused less on Vitter’s prostitutes and more on the principle of a politician getting away with criminal activities his constituents would face punishment for. The spot showed one Louisiana voter saying, “If you’re writing the laws, you should abide by the laws.” Another argued, “For me, it’s not about hookers or cheating on his wife. The man broke the law, and there ought to be consequences for that.”
It didn’t work. Vitter won by nearly 20 points.
This year, however, John Bel Edwards has abandoned subtlety altogether. Here’s the new ad in its entirety:
Update: The Edwards campaign announced today that it will edit the ad to remove background images from Arlington National Cemetery.