Republicans are already facing a lot of trouble going into the 2008 competition for control of the Senate. And, now, they’ve got a prostitution problem — invloving Louisiana Senator David “Family Values” Vitter — that could cost the party another seat.
After losing control of the Senate in 2006, Republicans have to turn around and defend all the seats the party’s candidates won in the party’s 2002 sweep. With President Bush’s approval numbers in the tank, and with the most of the senators tied by their votes to an unpopular war, that won’t be easy.
The GOP’s got to defend a number of incumbents who are vulnerable because of their closeness to the Bush administration — Maine’s Susan Collins, Minnesota’s Norm Coleman, New Hampshire’s John Sununu. Several of their “secure” incumbents are suddenly looking less secure because of ethical scandals, including senior senators Ted Stevens of Alaska and New Mexico’s Pete Domenici. And their newest senator, Wyoming’s John Barrasso, was appointed rather than elected and must face voters in a western state where the Democrats are showing previous unimagined signs of life.
But the toughest challenge the party faces could involve the senator who was not even supposed to be on the ballot next year.
Louisiana Vitter, a former congressman who was elected with ease in 2004, is having an increasingly hard time explaining his penchant for paying prostitutes — in Washington and New Orleans — to have help him commit “a very serious sin.”
Vitter is not the first Louisiana politician to let the good times roll. But as a social conservative who has not hesitated to attack the morality of others, he is facing charges of the sort of hypocrisy that could force him from office.
How serious is the discussion about resignation? One prominent conservative, senior State Department official Randall Tobias, quit his position in April after it was revealed that he had frequently the D.C. escort service to which Vitter’s name has now been linked.
And at least one prominent Louisiana Republican says Vitter should follow Tobias’ lead.
On Tuesday, Louisiana Republican State Central Committeeman Vincent Bruno called on Vitter to resign “for his own good, the good of the party and the good of his family.”
Bruno says that if Vitter fails to leave office after the revelations about how he is apparently hooked on hookers, Bruno suggested that the Senator might want to “join the Democratic Party where they think that kind of behavior is OK.”