Saturday, November 21, 2015

Election Day Party Bus

Saints Bus

This is it, y'all.  Despite our long history of bad experiences with having one, we're on our way out to make a new Governor.  I'm typing this post up late on Friday evening. We're voting on Saturday. So, in Carnival terms, this is the Lundi Gras of the election. Accordingly, it's been pretty low key. Everyone has an early morning and long day ahead of them.

Monday night (or.. I guess.. the "Muses Thursday" of the Carnival schedule) was a different story as the gubernatorial candidates met for a final.. um.. energetic debate. David Vitter and John Bel Edwards struggled to make themselves heard over the hooting and hollering of charged up spectators. I'm not sure but I got the impression the noise began with Vitter partisans packed into the building specifically for the purpose of making a scene.  But the Edwards supporters were making themselves heard was well.  Anyway, it was a raucous atmosphere. I'm a little surprised no shoes were thrown.

This was a fun debate. Which is surprising at this point in the campaign.  We've heard the candidates' plow through their standard pitches so many times on TOPS, on the transportation trust fund, on the seemingly perma-fucked state budget, so many times that our eyes glaze over when they go through those motions for the nth time.  Not that those things aren't important. It's just that.. it's been a long campaign. One supposes all that stuff is worth going over again for the benefit of those just now tuning in.  But, in all likelihood, that audience isn't joining us now to hear about the Inventory Tax Credit.  They're there to see some fireworks. And that's what the candidates provided Monday.
Granted, a lot of that was stupid.  For instance Edwards called Vitter out for "lying" about John Bel's position on Syrian refugees.  Despite Vitter's "distortions" Edwards assured the audience that he is willing to assume a posture every bit as hateful and suspicious of the homeless victims of ISIS who aren't actually coming to Louisiana right now as Vitter's.

Nevertheless, Vitter continued full steam ahead with his nonsensical harangue about "unaccounted for" Syrian refugees let loose in Louisiana and now ominously descending on Washington D.C. to receive a fist bump from President Obama. Vitter continued with this the next day in an email blast despite some rather glaring factual difficulties and.. um.. uncomfortable ironies.
Ironically, David Vitter's wife Wendy is the general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which means she also is the lawyer for Catholic Charities — the people who are bringing in refugees. Apparently the senator is so desperate that he doesn't even mind throwing his wife and Archbishop Gregory Aymond under the bus for a few cheap political points.

For the record, the Syrian man that Vitter and the GOP say is “missing” and “unaccounted for” is totally accounted for. He had to fill out multiple forms before moving around in Baton Rouge, let alone before moving to Washington D.C. to be with his family. (See The Advocate's story HERE confirming all this.) It's noteworthy that The Advocate story came out a full day before the GOP sent the hysterical email, which means they had to have known they were spreading lies in order to foster hysteria — and raise money.
Salon ran a Bob Mann column with a headline stating that Vitter had (again) thrown his wife "under the bus" as well. This bus thing is an interesting choice of imagery given that Vitter had spent the debate making multiple references to the "purple party bus" the Edwards campaign apparently used to ferry attendees at a campaign event in New Orleans over to City Hall so they could vote early.  Seems pretty cool to me. But Vitter clearly intended some sort of racial dig by it.  In Vitter world, driving black voters to the polls at all is suspicious activity. Later in the week, Vitter was asked to square his position on Syrian refugees with his wife's relationship to Catholic Charities.  He said he thought the question was "mean spirited."

It's likely that Vitter's mean spirited xenophobic and racist flavored attacks have done him some good this week. The polling averages could suggest a narrowing of the margin by which he still trails, although that's in no way definite.  He might have made more noticeable progress had his momentum not been blunted by the news of Bobby Jindal's decision on Tuesday (Hermes/Krewe d'Etat Friday on the Carnival calendar) to end his Presidential campaign. 

Not only did Jindal interrupt the flow of the campaign with his announcement, the outgoing Governor also quite inconveniently decided he was in the mood to also do a little governing.  On Wednesday (Endymion Saturday of the campaign) Jindal unveiled a package of emergency cuts to address a mid-year budget shortfall. The legislature approved the plan Friday. They had little choice but to do just that. Still, both candidates publicly urged them not to. 

Jindal's sudden budget action especially disrupted Vitter's plans on Thursday.
A press conference on the refugee crisis originally planned to be held in front of the Catholic Charities’ refugee assistance office was scraped at the last minute in favor of one focused on the budget on the state capitol’s front steps.

Vitter may have been seeing a shift in voter sentiments, “but then Bobby Jindal parachuted in,” said Edward Chervenak, director of the Survey Research Center at the University of New Orleans.
According to our Carnival calendar, Thursday would have been the Thoth/Bacchus Sunday of election week. Most people agree that event-packed day is probably the real climax of the Carnival season.  The campaign version lived up to this billing. 

Vitter had wanted to talk about refugees all day. Jindal forced him to talk about the budget instead.  And when Vitter was his typical overly aggressive self in going about this, Jindal and his staff executed the most exquisite rope-a-dope of the entire campaign.
Jindal, who hasn’t endorsed either of his potential successors, challenged both to release plans of their own.

“Leadership often requires a willingness to make tough choices, but both David Vitter and John Bel Edwards are suggesting they may take the easy way out by raising taxes, even though they won’t quite come out and say it,” Jindal said in a statement. “It’s easy to be a critic, but critics are not leaders. Both candidates have been light on details and should outline their solutions in more detail.”

During his news conference, Vitter implied that he didn’t have a detailed plan because he didn’t have enough information from the Jindal administration.

Commissioner of Administration Stafford Palmieri responded online, saying that her door is “always open to discuss the budget.”
Actually this article leaves out the best part of the exchange. Here is the rest of Palmieri's response.


So what's gonna happen on Saturday? I don't think anyone knows.  On Friday night I watched Jeremy Alford and Stephanie Grace struggle on Informed Sources. Alford referred a few times to the tightening margins and said something about "white voters coming home to Vitter" this week. That sounds probable but, like I said earlier, it's difficult to see in the polling with any certainty.

Here, in Huff-Po's chart you can see the averages narrowing in the final week.

But the numbers are so tight that it's hard to know what to read into that.

Sabato analyst Geoffrey Skelley moved the race into the "leans Democratic" column this week but, in the text, he emphasizes that they "can't say we're supremely confident" in this call.

Here, Tyler Bridges visits the "bellwether" House District 50 and just goes around asking people who they're voting for.  There's nothing conclusive here but that's by design. Still it's worth paying attention to why voters say they're making the choices they make.

Here, Adrastos explains why there are still probably more Vitter voters than people think there are.
In addition to my concerns that Vitter’s racist and xenophobic slurs might work, I’m convinced that Vitter is underpolling. Most recent surveys have him 15+ points behind Edwards. I’m convinced that there are a substantial number of Vitter voters who are too embarrassed to admit that they’re voting for the sleazy Senator. I’m not the only one.
On the positive side, there was one pretty conclusive poll taken this week. It's probably an outlier, though.

All indications are, your vote will definitely matter so do not neglect it. Part of me is rooting for the election to come down to something like 1,000 votes so we can do some recounts and lawsuits and spend the next several years arguing about who stole it and how. Seems an appropriate way to finish this.

Saturday is the Fat Tuesday of Election Week.  Do what you wanna otherwise but please get out and vote.  The polls are open from 7 am - 8pm. If you want to know where to vote, click here. If you need a ride to the polls, just keep an eye out for the big purple bus.

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