Tonight’s gubernatorial debate at ULL will mark David Vitter’s third absence from the campaign rostrum. The gubernatorial caravan of candidates will be broadcast live by LPB.
In a story reported by The Advocate today, the Vitter campaign has offered little in the way of an explanation, citing an unspecified “scheduling conflict.” While missing debates itself doesn’t really amount to much in the way of a character flaw, Vitter’s repeated declinations have begun to raise suspicions among pundits and his opponents about what the senator is avoiding. Because, you know, it's not obvious.
Vitter is expected to participate in Thursday’s debate at Louisiana Tech, which is not open to the public, the press or students on campus. Agreeing to only controlled environments will sharpen pointed skepticism that Vitter is dodging questions about the “serious sin” and follow ups that seek to pin him to admission of criminal behavior. Then again, with the unrelenting stench of a boudoir scandal lingering around him like an unchanged diaper, maybe it’s best for Vitter to avoid public contact.
“It’s important to have as many opportunities as possible to see candidates in unrehearsed mode and not just when they’re on a script or in TV ads,” LPB CEO Beth Courtney told the Advocate.
The Vitter campaign has complained that his opponents have him in a catch 22, attacking him for not showing up to the debates but expecting him to be in D.C. in his official capacity as a senator. Considering the bloated expectations of the American campaign trail, we can’t say that defense holds much water when his opponents aren’t exactly unemployed. Vitter can continue to plead the fifth in the court of public opinion, but that’s only going to serve to make his candidacy (and hypothetical gubernatorial administration) seem less and less transparent. No one really seems sorry for him, in any case. A Public Policy poll showed Vitter’s favorability rating around 34 percent. Bobby Jindal’s white-face state portrait is likely more popular.
Vitter has been simultaneously aggressive and defensive in his attempts to quash discussion of his infamous prostitution scandal. A reporter for WVLA in Baton Rouge was fired after he confronted Vitter in the parking lot of the Secretary of State’s office following the candidate’s official qualification for the race, asking Vitter about sexual proclivities.
Although WVLA denies that the reporter was canned for his aggressive inquiry, the reporter has maintained that the station kicked him to the curb after the Vitter campaign threatened to pull TV ad buys. Vitter’s most recent campaign finance report shows a total of $34,276.25 in disbursements to WVLA between August and September. Ad buys with WVLA competitors WAFB and WBRZ in that same window have been far more lucrative, totaling just under $100,000 for each station. Vitter’s campaign has spent just over $1.8 million to date in campaign disbursements.
While those numbers don’t really point to anything conclusive, that it seems plausible that Vitter would demand a reporter’s head on threat of discontinued patronage bodes poorly for the candidate’s character, especially when combined with his habit of campaign trail truancy. If Vitter’s got nothing to hide, if he’s atoned for his sins, if he’s right with his God and yours, then why won’t he come to Lafayette and show it?