Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Louisiana Senate Hype: Don’t Believe It

By Stuart Rothenberg

When former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor entered the Louisiana Republican Senate race, more than a few political journalists took notice, hyping the GOP primary challenge to Sen. David Vitter. Not surprisingly, Politico was particularly robust in talking about the new danger for Vitter, who has had some public embarrassments.

A week after Traylor entered the race, Politico reporter Shira Toeplitz wrote that a controversy over Vitter’s response to a question about the President’s citizenship “immediately led to speculation that Vitter was making a play to the right in the wake of a new primary challenger.”

The Politico article quoted one Tea Party leader and activist as suggesting that Vitter was protecting his right flank. It didn’t even allude to some of buzz about Traylor’s political and personal weaknesses, and it conveniently ignored those who doubted Vitter’s comments had anything to do with the new ‘threat” from Traylor.

Now The News-Star (Monroe, Louisiana) reports that Traylor has “his own ethical questions,” and even experienced Louisiana political strategists openly contemptuous of Vitter doubt that Traylor can raise enough money and mount a full-blown challenge quickly enough to seriously threaten Vitter in the state’s August 28 primary.

Vitter has plenty of critics and almost as many enemies in the state, but he has always figured out where he needs to be politically to retain his seat, and there is no evidence yet that Traylor will become a serious threat to the senator in the GOP primary.

Reporters like to write about Vitter because it gives them the opportunity each time to detail his juicy past problems, but until there is evidence that Traylor is making headway in his uphill bid, the Republican primary isn’t much of a story.