Vitter riding high despite `very serious sin' with D.C. madam

October 27, 2010

WASHINGTON (RNS) When Sen. David Vitter admitted in 2007 to a "very
serious sin" after his phone number appeared on the list of a Washington
escort service, the "family values" Louisiana Republican's political
career was suddenly on life support.

The man who had made his name decrying public corruption and
demanding that President Bill Clinton resign for lying about an affair
with a White House aide was forced to confess to using the services of
prostitutes.

But three years later, independent polls have consistently shown
Vitter comfortably ahead of his Democratic challenger, maintaining a
double-digit lead heading into next week's elections.

Asked by "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart in September how Vitter could
be ahead in the polls, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine
replied: "Now that's a tough one. I don't know why. Louisiana seems real
forgiving."

Some supporters say Vitter's personal conduct isn't nearly as
important as his opposition to the president's legislative agenda, which
they oppose and, in some cases, abhor. Others say they embrace the
biblical admonition for personal forgiveness and redemption.

For James Bulliard, president of Cajun Chef Products in St.
Martinville, La., support for Vitter is a no-brainer. "He is not going
to vote for any of those outlandish Obama programs, and he says what he
means and means what he says," Bulliard said.

Bulliard said he's counting on Vitter to oppose any efforts by
Democrats to allow the Bush tax cuts for people earning $250,000 or more
to expire.

"I'm doing pretty well, though don't tell President Obama, he'll
probably want to take credit," Bulliard said. "But I'm far from what
anyone would consider rich. And Vitter will vote to retain those tax
cuts."

Asked why she wrote a $500 check to the Vitter campaign, Penny Ellis
of Covington, retired from public relations work, said: "I'm a
conservative and a Republican and he is, too."

"He has sinned, as he has said, but for the most part he is a decent
man," Ellis said, and said Clinton's and Vitter's transgressions aren't
the same. Vitter "was lonely. He made a mistake," she said. "But he kept
his family together. He's got a lovely wife."

Becca Fox, a registered Republican from New Orleans, isn't as
forgiving.

"I feel he is a hypocrite," said Fox, a former stay-at-home mom who
now operates a lingerie store in New Orleans. "I really cannot stand it
when somebody proclaims himself as a big family values proponent and
then pulls the stunt he did and doesn't take personal responsibility. He
should have resigned."

Joy Moore, 72, of Oberlin, said for her it comes down to the concept
of personal forgiveness.

"I'm sure every day he regrets what he did. I just can't try to
judge him myself," Moore said, offering up the biblical verse: "He that
is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."