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|Melancon's voting record presents a big problem|
Congressman Charlie Melancon's decision to offer himself as a candidate in the 2010 Senate race will give us an opportunity to witness something we don't see very often in Louisiana.
That would be an old-style Senate campaign in which a member of the U.S. House of Representatives vacates his seat to take on an incumbent senator of the opposing party. A showdown, if you will, between a loyal Democratic congressman and a diehard Republican senator.
In this instance, of course, the loyal Democrat is Melancon, the 3rd District congressman from Napoleonville. The diehard member of the GOP is Sen. David Vitter from Metairie.
Though we're assuming Vitter won't have any problems in securing the Republican Party's nomination in his bid for a second term, Melancon's official announcement last week that he would be a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination was delayed a bit thanks to Jim Bernhard, the CEO of Shaw Group, who toyed with seeking his party's blessing to take on Vitter. Bernhard obviously felt he would be better served in staying put at Shaw in lieu of getting involved in politics as a candidate. He's a wise man.
With Bernhard out of the way, a path was cleared for Melancon to make his move to leave the House. In politics, it's better to leave on your own terms instead of giving the voters an opportunity to show you the door, which is exactly what Melancon was possibly facing if he had decided to run for re-election next year. Besides, it's highly possible the 3rd District will disappear when congressional districts are redrawn following the 2010 census. Remember, Louisiana's population growth isn't keeping pace with rest of the country, which sets the stage for the state to lose a congressional district after the next census count.
While it's not clear how vulnerable Melancon is or was down on the bayou, he certainly gave his detractors plenty to talk about in light of his refusal to meet with his constituents to discuss the red-hot topic of the day, health care reform. Plenty of campaign ammunition is more like it.
Why Melancon refuses to face the music in discussing health care in a public setting among the people who matter most -- the voters -- is a question only Melancon can answer. I suppose we'll never know for sure.
Something tells me, though, that Melancon has or had no desire to be placed in a position in a public forum in which he would be asked whether he'll embrace a wholesale government take-over of health care in America or oppose it. We'll know in time where Melancon stands on the issue since it is near certainty the Congress will take up health care reform following the August recess.
If Melancon votes along the same lines as he has voted in the recent past, he can be counted on to tow the party line and vote for a measure the Obama administration and/or the Democratic leadership in the Congress favors. That would most likely be the case if one takes the time to reflect upon Melancon's voting pattern in the past year or so.
According to Congressional Quarterly, a Capitol Hill newspaper that's been around since the 1950s, Melancon voted lockstep with the Democratic leadership some 93 percent of the time in 2008. According to Cook Political Report, a well-respected outfit that analyzes the comings and goings of politics in our nation's capital, Melancon voted with President Obama 84 percent of the time from the day Obama took office, Jan. 20, through the end of June. During that same time frame, or thereabout, Melancon voted with the Democratic Party's leadership 86 percent of the time.
Those figures don't bode well for any candidate for statewide office in Louisiana, a state that's a touch more conservative than it is moderate or, heaven forbid, liberal. However, those figures represent Melancon's voting record, a record he can't hide or run from in this era of instantaneous information thanks to the Internet.
Melancon has an opportunity to redeem himself, though, when the Congress passes judgment on health care reform, meaning he can abandon his party and vote no on any of that radical legislation the Democratic leadership has advocated thus far in the health care reform debate, or lack thereof. That would present a problem for Melancon, too, for he would risk offending the people he must rely upon to raise the money he needs to run against Vitter.
Anyway you cut it or analyze it, Melancon has a problem on his hands.
Vitter probably would agree.
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