Tuesday, 24 November 2015 16:43

Chehardy: Vitter a flawed candidate, Edwards ran a perfect campaign

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lawrence chehardyJohn Bel Edwards is the Governor-Elect.  The race is over, and an analysis of it is in order.

This election was without a doubt the most negative and nasty of any campaign I can remember.  The tone of the election was set early on by Senator David Vitter and his Political Action Committee who ran a nearly totally negative campaign against his two republican rivals in the primary and against Mr. Edwards in the general election.  This onslaught of negative campaigning contributed heavily to the Edwards victory.  By attacking his republican opponents so heavily, many of those voters found it impossible to vote for Mr. Vitter in the run-off election.  To win John Bel Edwards did not need all of Jay Dardenne’s voters nor did he need all of Scott Angelle’s voters.  He just needed some of them, and he got them.

The lesson to be learned from this past election cycle is simple.  Comparing one candidate’s record to another’s is more than fine.  But over the top attacks on other candidate’s character and record, when those attacks are misleading and false, can backfire.  Dardenne and Angelle voters and many others were turned off by Senator Vitter’s campaign, and it showed on election night.  In the primary Senator Vitter received just 23% of the vote, and in the run-off he received just 44%.   Simply put too much negative.

Despite what some said the Edwards spot saying that David Vitter chose, “prostitutes over patriots,” was excellent because it reminded voters of Vitter’s “serious sin” and provided voters with a sharp contrast between David Vitter and John Bel Edwards.  Moreover the spot compared character, Mr. Edwards with Mr. Vitter. So while it was not necessarily the “serious sin” part of the spot that got votes, if any, for Mr. Edwards, it was the subtle comparison of character that did the harm.  Furthermore, the debates did not help Senator Vitter.  John Bel Edwards stood toe to toe with Senator Vitter.  Mr. Edwards experience as an attorney served him well in the debates and throughout the campaign.

Democrats were fortunate that their candidate had the resume’ of a republican.  John Bel Edwards is a West Point graduate, an Army Ranger, pro-life, pro-gun, and a small town democrat.  He was focused and did not let the attacks from the Vitter campaign distract him from his message.  He and his team are to be congratulated for running an excellent campaign. 

Interestingly, the polling throughout the campaign was right on target.  Some folks questioned the accuracy of the polls, but the ones I was privy to were spot on.  Those polls showed a likely win for John Bel Edwards at 55%.  Mr. Edwards received 56% on Election Day.  Those who like the results sing their praises and those who don’t like the results condemn them.  The bottom line is simple.  If the polling is done by a credible pollster, the results are likely accurate.  Yes, there is always the chance for error since pollsters deal with statistical probabilities; but, as a practical matter, those errors do not happen.

Most political observers will call the win by John Bel Edwards a “miracle.”  It was not a “miracle.”  Republicans had a flawed candidate, and those flaws showed themselves in the campaign.  Yes, Senator Vitter was the favorite; and maybe he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  But in political campaigns of this magnitude, “miracles” don’t just happen.  John Bel Edwards ran a perfect campaign.  It was picture perfect.  It is a study in how to run a campaign for a democrat in a state where democrats don’t do well running statewide.

Election night in his concession speech, Senator Vitter dropped a bomb shell on the political scene by announcing that he will not seek re-election in November of next year.  Now with an open seat in the U.S. Senate, the candidates will be lining up.  If nothing else Louisiana voters will be facing another rough and tough political season in 2016.

John Bel Edwards has much to be proud of.  His family is very close.  His family values are real.  And he is dedicated to an open and ethical administration.  John Bel will be a breath of fresh air in Louisiana.  Our state has serious fiscal problems, and our leaders will have a tough time fixing the mess that has been created.  The remedy may not be the most popular, but it may be necessary to save our state, our universities and public education, our health care system, and our state’s infrastructure from bankruptcy.  Let’s hope that democrats and republicans alike will work together with Governor-Elect Edwards and move Louisiana forward so that our state's future will shine and prosper.


Lawrence Chehardy

For thirty-four years Lawrence Chehardy served as Assessor of Jefferson Parish. He has been the leading authority on Louisiana’s property tax laws. In addition to his political commentary and public speaking engagements, Lawrence Chehardy is a founding member of the Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Murray, Recile, Griffith, Stakelum & Hayes Law Firm and serves as its managing partner.

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