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Jul 11, 2010 3:51 PM by Chris Welty

Qualifying a Preview of Fall Campaigns

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Want a preview of the congressional
campaign trail and the candidates' stump speeches heading into the
November election? The three-day candidate sign-up period offered a
peek into politicians' playbooks, and very little was surprising -
or really inspiring.
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter doesn't want to talk about
personal indiscretions, domestic violence issues involving his
former aide or anything else that isn't a scripted attack on
President Barack Obama or his Democratic challenger Charlie
Melancon. And Vitter will just ignore those questions he doesn't
like and walk away.
Melancon doesn't want anything to do with Obama, doesn't want to
be tagged in the mold of a national Democrat or a liberal one, but
he wants everything to do with comparisons to popular centrists
from Louisiana, like former U.S. Sen. John Breaux. And he wants
people to know he's a hunter and a fishermen with a successful,
decades-long marriage - and no prostitution scandal.
In most congressional districts, moderate Republicans are out,
and conservative, tea party-types are in. Even incumbents and
longtime GOP politicians are trending right in their rhetoric for
nearly every congressional district, except the 2nd District
representing New Orleans. There, the Republican incumbent, Anh
"Joseph" Cao, talks of being independent and not beholden to a
party. His Democratic opponents disagree, of course, and call him a
GOP obstructionist.
One nearly universal trend of the qualifying period last week:
almost every candidate, Democrat or Republican, claims to detest
Obama's deepwater drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico,
despite the nasty oil spill fouling Louisiana's shores.
Candidates for congressional races who filed into the Secretary
of State's Office in Baton Rouge to register for the elections
stuck to common rhetorical themes in campaigns that seem each year
to mirror more and more the partisan campaigns of every other
state. Inspiration apparently not needed.
Vitter and Melancon offered the most fireworks in a race already
laden with attacks.
Vitter complained of Melancon's support of Obama and Melancon's
vote for the federal stimulus package.
"We need to have the proper checks and balances against what is
in many ways a radical Obama agenda, and on that point there are
stark differences and there will be a clear choice between me and
my opponent," Vitter said.
Meanwhile, Melancon criticized Vitter as a hard-core, right-wing
partisan, and he portrayed himself as a centrist and attempted to
distance himself from the president.
"People in Louisiana vote their conscience and they vote for
the person. They don't, when it comes down to it, look at who's the
president, who's the (House) speaker, as long as that person's not
just a go-along, follow-along person. They should be more upset
with Mr. Vitter because he doesn't think for himself," the
congressman said.
Expect much more of the same as the Senate race continues
through the Aug. 28 party primary and into the Nov. 2 general
election.
The only really unscripted moments - that time that offers a
true glimpse of the person instead of the politician - involved
Vitter's abrupt departure from his post-qualifying appearance
before a bank of TV cameras and reporters.
The senator disliked the questions and quickly left the
Secretary of State's Office when the topic turned from his campaign
rhetoric and to his former employee, who had repeatedly run into
trouble with the law and pleaded guilty two years ago to a
knife-wielding altercation with an ex-girlfriend.
Vitter had largely avoided the press since a recent ABC News
report disclosed the criminal history of his aide, Brent Furer, who
resigned June 23 after the story broke. Vitter refused to answer
nearly all questions about Furer last week, including why he kept
Furer on staff after the guilty plea.
Instead, he stormed out of the building and back into the safety
of other campaign stops with his prepared stump speech and venues
packed with supporters, to follow the political playbook.

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