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Will the oil spill impact the Louisiana Senate race?

Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) has emerged as one of the public faces of the oil spill in the Gulf, raising the question of whether his heightened profile will help or hurt him in his challenge against Sen. David Vitter (R) this fall.

Both Vitter, who is running for a second term, and Melancon, whose coastal 3rd district has been among those hardest hit by the spill, have been vocal in calling for the federal government to send emergency funds and resources to the area.

But Melancon has been the more outspoken of the two. He grew visibly emotional at a congressional hearing last week on the spill, breaking down mid-way through his testimony on the spill's impact on the region's wetlands. (His emotional outburst drew headlines around the country.)

Melancon, not a household name prior to the spill, almost certainly is now in the state -- a good thing in rawly political terms.

"It is such a deep emotional wound that has opened up," said one Democratic strategist granted anonymity to speak candidly about the political effect of the spill. Melancon's emotional testimony last week, the strategist added, showed that the three-term congressman "finally found his voice," which echoed what Louisianans are feeling. "That certainly resonated everywhere," the strategist said. "He got a lot of 'attaboys.'"

But, with President Obama becoming an increasing focus of the blame -- and with the news over the weekend that the spill may not be capped until August -- Melancon's fortune could be tied to that of the administration.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll last week showed that 51 percent of Americans now disapprove of Obama's handling of the spill response, while 46 percent approve.

John Maginnis, who writes a popular political newsletter in the state, noted that even if voters increasingly blame Obama for the spill response, the anti-Obama sentiment in the state "has already been factored into" the race due to the fact that the President was not terribly popular in the Bayou State even prior to the spill.

"I don't know how it gets any worse," Maginnis said. "Maybe it prevents it from getting any better."

For their part, Melancon and Vitter continue to trade barbs with each other over the spill.

Vitter ,in delivering the Republican response to the President's radio address, accused Democrats of turning the spill into a PR opportunity.

Said Vitter:

"I guess it's typical of the culture in Washington for politicians to believe that they can solve an ongoing crisis with statements and testimonies in Congressional committee rooms. But the time for committee hearings is for after the well has been capped -- not before."

Melancon, meanwhile, shot back that Vitter himself is politicizing the disaster, and has accused the incumbent of siding with BP by refusing to back legislation that would lift the liability cap for oil companies responsible for spills.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which views Louisiana as one of their two chances to knock off a Republican incumbent this fall, waded into the debate this afternoon seeking to contrast Melancon's allegation that BP has not been entirely truthful from the start with Vitter's support for more offshore drilling.

It's hard to see one side or the other gaining the upper hand politically in the near term as the state -- and the nation -- is focused on simply stopping the leak. But, once the leak is plugged -- whenever that is -- the blame game will begin in earnest and both sides are doing everything they can to position themselves to take advantage when that day comes.

And, given the scope of the environmental tragedy, it's hard not to see it being an issue when voters make their mind up between Melancon and Vitter this fall.

-- Felicia Sonmez

By The Fix  |  June 1, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

Vitter is so soaked with campaign contributions from oil companies that he can absorb them with some of those adult diapers we makes his floozies wear.

Posted by: osullivanc1 | June 4, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

brigade I presume you are aware that the GOP
has actually received over 60% of total oil campaign contributions since you want to make a big deal about Obama receiving contributions from BP employees since you know that direct corp contributions to a candidate have been illegal for over 70 years. By the way since you seem obsessed with oil money can you give us the employee contributions to Cheney,Barbour, Jindal,Vitter and to the GOP from SLB. My guess is that they pale in comparison to anything Obama has received but we shouldn't let facts get in the way, should we?

Posted by: leichtman1 | June 2, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

cannula, that speech was bad by Jindal's standards as well. He isn't a great speaker, but he is nowhere near that bad as he was for that rebuttal.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 1, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Ddawd- Bobby Jindal proved in his rebuttal to the State of the Union address a couple of years ago that he went to the Sara Palin school of oration. He has a great resume, but Obama proved that it's not what you do, but how you sound that impresses the Huffington/CNN crowd and gets you elected President in this country.

We get what we deserve.

Posted by: thecannula | June 1, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

This might have implications beyond the Senate race. Louisiana has a prominent politician who was thought of as Presidential material, but screwed that up due to a terrible speech a year ago and now might draw himself back in the picture, but might not since he is advocating government help as well as not letting BP off the hook which probably increases his electability among the general population now, but kills it among the Republican party which will probably drop to about thirty five people whenever he gets to running.

Try saying that three times fast.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 1, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

In November, the oil will hopefully have stopped flowing onto the Gulf Coast, Florida Keys, Virginia Beach, and the Hamptons, and we'll give those suffering a lot of relief in the form of cash and a new Congress- THEN in 2012- a one term community organizer will be back in his community- oh, what a relief that will be for our great country.

Posted by: thecannula | June 1, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse


Let's see- the biggest environmental catastrophe in US history- caused by a well Obama's administration approved and didn't oversee properly- and we have a private company trying to fix it with robots, when the Navy has manned submarines that dive 7 times the needed depth.... hmmmm of what does that remind you? A Bad movie perhaps? The Robocop President- Does Obama think picking up tar balls on the beach is going to cut it?- He should try spitting into the wind while, according to the Pew Research Foundation, 82% of Americans are paying close attention and a British run Private company runs the show! What is this ROBOCOP?- where Detroit privatized the Police Force?

Posted by: thecannula | June 1, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

DrainYou wrote,
"BP owns the well, and Transocean Ltd. owns the drilling rig, but Halliburton was the subcontractor in charge of sealing the bottom of the well. At two Senate hearings Tuesday, executives from Halliburton, BP and Transocean will be furiously blaming each other for the diaster. "
-------

Too bad Obama's boys issued the permits and the waivers that led to this disaster. But then BHO did get all that BP money.

But since your brain has been drained, go ahead and blame the Republicans. We'll see how that plays out over the next few months with Obama's approval ratings tanking as we head into the midterms.

Posted by: Brigade | June 1, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Vitter should offer La his used diapers to soak up the oil.

Posted by: DrainYou | June 1, 2010 7:08 PM
-------

That would be funny if it weren't actually more than Obama's done to date.

Posted by: Brigade | June 1, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Remember the happy days when 37th was just an expert on climatology and all we had to do was listen to him bray about climate change?

I miss those days,

especially now that he is an expert in deep-sea extractive industry safety measures. How does he get to be such an expert on everything? Mom must have an Encyclopedia Britannica among those boxes in the basement.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | June 1, 2010 6:48 PM
------

What is especially troubling is that he is usually proven to be more accurate than the Obama administration---and they're running the country (into the ditch).

Posted by: Brigade | June 1, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Noacoler wrote,
"@zouk: CC may let you hang around despite litigable libel but that's a far cry from taking your word on who the problems is around here."
------

That would be interesting. Litigable libel against an anonymous poster on a blog.

Posted by: Brigade | June 1, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

37th and Clown Street,

Just like the Wall Street meltdown, the Gulf Oil Spill is the final result of years and years of Republican deregulation and corporate cronyism.


Halliburton's Return: Oil Spill Puts Symbol Of Cronyism And Corruption Back In The News


"It seems increasingly likely that when investigators determine the precise cause of the oil-rig explosion that threatens to poison huge swaths of the Gulf of Mexico, what they'll conclude is that something went catastrophically wrong with the work done by Halliburton."


"BP owns the well, and Transocean Ltd. owns the drilling rig, but Halliburton was the subcontractor in charge of sealing the bottom of the well. At two Senate hearings Tuesday, executives from Halliburton, BP and Transocean will be furiously blaming each other for the diaster. "


"For Halliburton, it's just the latest in a seemingly endless series of brushes with notoriety."


"During the Bush years, Halliburton was so omnipresent that its very name became synonymous with crony capitalism and the corrupt intersection between government and the military-industrial complex -- particularly when oil and/or big money were involved."


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/11/halliburtons-return-oil-s_n_571308.html

Posted by: DrainYou | June 1, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

37th and Clown Street,

Republicans Block Dem Proposal For Unlimited Liability Caps On Oil Spills


Republicans (James Inhofe) have stepped up to the plate yet again for big oil, pledging a Republican filibuster against legislation offered by New Jersey's Robert Menendez that would completely lift the $75 million liability cap currently protecting big oil companies from claims of economic damage from oil spills.


Republicans oppose unlimited caps because it would limit the ability of oil companies to drill for oil. That's bull. The only thing it would do is hold them accountable by limiting their ability to risk the livelihood of innocent third parties and keep the tax payers from being stuck with footing the bill for their disasters.


Republicans like Inhofe support corporate socialism. They want corporations to enjoy unlimited profit with limited risk. For all the crying by Teabaggers about the financial bailouts, why are they silent about this sort of bailout?


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/25/exclusive-menendez-introd_n_588867.html

Posted by: DrainYou | June 1, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

37th

Bill Clinton will be calling you soon to offer you a position high up in the government. It is unpaid but there is the potential for a good book out of the deal. All you have to do is give uo your current spot and endorse drivl for first stooge. If anyone asks, just say that it was all hypothetical. This comes straight from the top, unless someone asks.

If you accept our terms, please remit $500,000 in small unmarked bills in $199 increments to Obama Forever via our credit card server in Syria. Make sure to use a different name each time.

We look forward to having you in the cabinet. If you prefer a czar position, please remit half the usual amount. this will avoid all background checks and tax audits. don't worry, we do this all the time. the press will cover it up for us.

Posted by: bumblingberry | June 1, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Vitter should offer La his used diapers to soak up the oil.

It'd go a long way towards helping him lock up the right wing pro prostitution vote.

Posted by: DrainYou | June 1, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Obama blaming BP is not going to help Obama much - OBAMA WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SAFETY STANDARDS - THE INSPECTIONS - AND THE ATMOSPHERE AT THE MINERALS MANAGEMENT SERVICE.


Obama can not accept responsibility.

Is Holder going to prosecute Obama over his failure to make sure proper safety protocols were followed? How about the lack of proper environmental preparedness reports ???


The PEOPLE OF THE GULF REGION DESERVE A GOVERNMENT WHICH FUNCTIONS PROPERLY.

THE SAME LAW THAT THEY ARE PROSECUTING BLAGO - FRAUD FROM FAILURE TO PROVIDE PROPER GOVERNMENT SERVICES - THAT IS WHAT OBAMA IS GUILTY OF.


.

Posted by: 37thand0street | June 1, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Obungler's approval down to 42%.

I guess the voters don't need me to understand how impotent and corrupt the Liberals are.

Unless of course, they were listening all along and Obama is great BUT despite that, the rastings have plummeted because of zouk and 37 and brigade and armpeg (who according to drivl are all one person) lying and porpogandizing all day every day (see drivl above).

so either Obama is a loser or Ped is a loser or both. which is it?

Posted by: bumblingberry | June 1, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

As if this blog could get any more delusional, The Ped shows up to disgust everyone's sense of right and wrong.

Are birds smart?
What does MSRP stand for?


Stick to what you know loser?

Posted by: bumblingberry | June 1, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Remember the happy days when 37th was just an expert on climatology and all we had to do was listen to him bray about climate change?

I miss those days,

especially now that he is an expert in deep-sea extractive industry safety measures. How does he get to be such an expert on everything? Mom must have an Encyclopedia Britannica among those boxes in the basement.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | June 1, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

The fact that Obama was trying to get cozy with the special interests is a DIRECT CAUSE OF THE OIL SPILL.


THE LAX SAFETY standards led to the spill

Not for nothing, Obama promised to OPPOSE THE SPECIAL INTERESTS - and to do things differently.


.

Posted by: 37thand0street | June 1, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: DDAWD | June 1, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Landon Donovan's left foot impacted the ball with such force to send the ball into the goal to clinch the World Cup Championship for the United States.


eeeeeee only a week and a half!!

Posted by: DDAWD | June 1, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Well disimpact is a verb, a transitive verb, so it requires an object, something that is...impacted.

Posted by: shrink2 | June 1, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

@CC: "impact" is a noun

@zouk: CC may let you hang around despite litigable libel but that's a far cry from taking your word on who the problems is around here. You can try to influence perceptions of the blog but aren't likely to be any more successful than influencing them on Obama. Whatever floats your little toy boat thought. Vroom. Whoosh.

Posted by: Noacoler | June 1, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

No zouk, everyone is just transfixed, over on bp.com/live assets, mesmerized by that clumsy little saw (it looks just like something I have in my tool shop) cutting on pipes and stuff...thinking about how much depends upon its work.

Posted by: shrink2 | June 1, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

shrink, Baghdad BJ and a couple of stooges.

Cilizza, you let drivl scare everyone away with anything interesting to say .

as long as the Obamabots rule this blog, you are going to continue to slide down toward mediocrity, just like our nation.

Posted by: bumblingberry | June 1, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

"The rally here in New Orleans was pathetic."

As they are in most places

Posted by: shrink2 | June 1, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

"Personal to Fix intern:

You are way behind this week. So far you haven't posted any --

free Charlie Cook ad/mentions,
"Dems in trouble" false narratives,
Chip (Barack the Magic N-gro CD) Saltsman shout outs, or
odes to Tim Pawlenty.

What gives?

Posted by: broadwayjoe"

Seems like she's pulling a double shift for Weigel's blog while he's on vacation.

I did enjoy having a Louisiana post. Let's hope this race gets more exciting. We even have our own Tea Party candidate. Mike Spears. I'm sure he'll make no noise, though. We aren't really a tea party hotspot. The rally here in New Orleans was pathetic.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 1, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"BHO had nothing to do with the spill. He didn't cause it, and only BP has the technology and resources to cap it."

It isn't a spill, but it is certainly true Obama had nothing to do with its cause and nothing to do with attempts to stop the flow. Only right wing nuts are trying to make that accusation.

To the extent the administration has made mistakes in its appreciation of the scope of the disaster and with certain very important aspects of its management/mitigation, they are now busy righting those wrongs.

People get to make mistakes. What they don't get to do is never admit it, never change course and keep making the same mistake over and over (Bush/Cheney).

Posted by: shrink2 | June 1, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The democrats have to be honest here - the OIL SPILL IN THE GULF IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO OBAMA COZING UP TO SPECIAL INTERESTS.


Obama took almost a MILLION dollars from BP


Obama ALLOWED THE SITUATION AT THE MINERALS MANAGEMENT SERVICE TO CONTINUE - IN THE FAVOR OF THE SPECIAL INTERESTS.


OBAMA CAN'T SAY HE DIDN'T KNOW - IT WAS WELL KNOWN AND PRINTED ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE WASHINGTON POST.


IT IS ABOUT TIME THAT OBAMA NOT DOING WHAT HE SAID HE WAS GOING TO DO - DIRECTLY LED TO THIS OIL SPILL. OBAMA IS RESPONSIBLE.


.

Posted by: 37thand0street | June 1, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

bwj, don't forget, we need another Dino Rossi update

Posted by: shrink2 | June 1, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Personal to Fix intern:

You are way behind this week. So far you haven't posted any --

free Charlie Cook ad/mentions,
"Dems in trouble" false narratives,
Chip (Barack the Magic N-gro CD) Saltsman shout outs, or
odes to Tim Pawlenty.

What gives?

Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 1, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

M-I-A, d, and dd. The neighborhood's finally livable again. Troll free, at least for the moment.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 1, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"But, with President Obama becoming an increasing focus of the blame...."
__________

What? Says who?

BHO had nothing to do with the spill. He didn't cause it, and only BP has the technology and resources to cap it.
Why are you fronting this Faux News fake controversy? Get mad at who caused the spill, BP, not the 44th President of the United States.

And, no, it won't impact the race; Vitter's opponent will win because of Vitter's various disgraceful activities and bagger positions.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | June 1, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

If you want to see a study in contrasts between Senators, you can look to Mary Landrieu and David Vitter. The former has been very active in getting Federal assistance for hurricane stricken areas as well as being an active force for getting the levees rebuilt and improving the education system in New Orleans. She is also responsible for the Medicaid fix in the health care bill (the maligned, but sensible "Louisiana Purchase") which prevents the Federal Govt. from using the influx of insurance and FEMA money to determine that disaster states have increased income and thus, allowing the Feds to cut Medicaid payments.

Vitter has been a wallflower in the Senate. He has sided with the Bush administration which was doing its best to withhold help and has been opposing the Obama administration, which has been very active in the region. Vitter even went so far as to unilaterally block Obama's nominee for FEMA chief last year until about a week or two into hurricane season.

My point is that there's ample opportunity for Melancon to paint a broad picture of Vitter as someone who is not looking out for Louisiana. Someone who is not going to work to get the funds and assistance the state needs. And there's no time like now time for Melancon to get started. (and this is all before we even get into Vitter's penchant to get embroiled in a prostitute scandal every other year) This state has been through a lot and Melancon needs to draw a contrast between those who will do what it takes to get the state through these tough times and those who won't.

As for Melancon's election chances, Louisiana is one of those states like Kentucky and WVa that seems very Republican, but has a strong Dem affiliation. This manifests itself on the state level quite frequently. Louisiana isn't going to give its electoral votes to a black Presidential candidate from Illinois named Barack, but has given them to a white Presidential candidate from neighboring Arkansas named Bill. Furthermore, Louisiana elects Dem govs all the time (switching back and forth) and David Vitter is the first Republican Senator from Louisiana in over one hundred years. So it wouldn't exactly be unprecedented for a Dem to win this seat. Especially a Dem like Charlie Melancon. If Melancon were to win, George Will would immediately pen a column about how Melancon is pro-life, anti CapnTrade, anti health care, and anti-gay marriage. He is running behind Vitter by a considerable amount, but given the anti-incumbant mood as well as Vitter's ineffectiveness, this might be doable.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 1, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

"Melancon, meanwhile, shot back that Vitter himself is politicizing the disaster, and has accused the incumbent of siding with BP by refusing to back legislation that would lift the liability cap for oil companies responsible for spills."


I'd say that blaming Obama for an oil company's negligence is kinda politicizing it, wouldn't you?

And why are Rs so reluctant to lift the liability cap, so that US taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill?

They are sure are tolerant there in LA. I think in most places Diaper Boy would have been out of there.

"A woman accused of running a Washington prostitution ring placed five phone calls to David Vitter while he was a House member, including two while roll call votes were under way, according to telephone and congressional records."

Posted by: drindl | June 1, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

FS wrote:

"It's hard to see one side or the other gaining the upper hand politically in the near term as the state -- and the nation -- is focused on simply stopping the leak."

Here on the Gulf Coast all Ds and all Rs have always been pro-drilling. So have their constituents. That will change on the LA coast, at least for awhile. BHO will respond to the LA coast with fed cash better than GWB did - that boat has already sailed, according to LA news sources. So the question is which cndidate plays the current mood in LA most successfully - and I think Melancon has the potential better of it from now until November.

FS, only a poll in LA has any relevance here. For those of you who do not know, LA is a unique part of the country, unlike any other, for better and for worse, but usually for poorer and in sickness. Ddawd will confirm.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | June 1, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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