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David Vitter seems to have rolled with the punch of last year's sex scandal

July 3, 2008 | 11:56 am

Might David Vitter belong to that rare breed of politicians who survive the type of scandal that sink most others (see Spitzer, Eliot, and Fossella, Vito)?

Chances are we won't know for sure until 2010, when the Republican senator from Louisiana is up for re-election. But based on a new poll by the Baton Rouge-based Southern Media & Opinion Research firm, Vitter has reason for optimism that he will keep his job.Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana last year took questions about the sex scandal that embroiled him as his wife, Wendy, looked on

When we last left Vitter -- almost exactly a year ago -- he was confessing, vaguely, to a "very serious sin" that involved his association with a D.C.-based prostitution ring. Then a New Orleans-based prostitute alleged that she and the senator had once been especially good friends (a connection Vitter denied).

Perhaps the best-remembered moment stemming from the scandal occurred when Vitter held a news conference in Metairie, La., to try to put it behind him (fat chance) and was joined at the podium by his wife, Wendy -- whose pained expression said it all (he didn't look especially happy, either).

In Washington, Vitter has kept a mostly low profile since then. But he's kept going about his senatorial business and, in Louisiana, his standing appears about the same as it was before the commotion erupted.

The new survey of the state's voters found that 55% view him favorably, 38% unfavorably. In April of 2007, a poll by Southern Media put his numbers at 52% favorable, 32% unfavorable.

One of the firm's pollsters, Bernie Pinsonat, told us Vitter has benefited from a reservoir of goodwill he could draw upon. For instance, many voters well remember that as a state legislator several years ago, he led the charge for highly popular term limits.

Nor has he lost that sense of what the public wants.

Louisianans became incensed recently ...


... when the state lawmakers that Vitter left behind voted themselves a pay raise -- and Gov. Bobby Jindal indicated he was going to renege on the pledge he once made to veto any such effort.

Says Pinsonat: "Vitter was the first one to jump up and say, 'Veto that pay raise.' It took Jindal three weeks to figure that out."

The pollster doesn't think Vitter is out of the woods yet; he notes that the senator isn't yet "being whacked in a 30-second commercial."

But as he looks down the road in a state that has had more than its fair share of roguish politicians, Pinsonat says: "I think David Vitter is OK, unless something else happens."

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press