The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How David Vitter handed Democrats a rare win in the Deep South

Emerging from a week of seclusion and scandal linking him to a Washington escort service, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) returns to his duties on Capitol Hill in this file photo from July 17, 2007. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

As of last December, there was not a single Democratic governor, senator or state legislature in the Deep South. After decades of slowly turning red, the people of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina rid themselves of the last Democratic senator with the defeat of Mary Landrieu by Bill Cassidy in Louisiana. The transition was complete.

Less than a year later, that is no longer the case.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) lost his bid to replace termed-out Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) to Democrat John Bel Edwards in spectacular fashion Saturday night, losing by nearly 10 points by the time the Associated Press called the race. Cassidy beat Landrieu by 11.8 points. In West Baton Rouge Parish, which the Republican Cassidy won by two points, Edwards won by 32 points on Election Day. Allen Parish, which Cassidy won by more than 30 points, Edwards won by 9.8.

How much Edwards out-performed Landrieu in percentage points

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Edwards improved on Landrieu's margins in all but one county. On average, he outperformed her by 26 points in all of the counties.

So what does it take for a Democrat to win in the Deep South? Edwards was a West Point graduate who described himself as "pro-life and pro-gun," which didn't hurt.

But he was also running against one of the most seriously flawed candidates it's possible to imagine. Edwards laid Vitter out cold with an ad noting that Vitter had been linked to prostitutes while serving in Washington. It featured this, which is about as bad as it gets.

Bear in mind: The ad was accurate.

Vitter tried to respond with an ad featuring Willie Robertson from "Duck Dynasty," comparing his stumbles to the stumbles of the state at large. Then, after the terror attacks in Paris, he tried to link Edwards to the settlement of Syrian refugees in Louisiana.

Clearly, it was unsuccessful.

When Edwards is inaugurated, there will be a grand total of two statewide Democratic constitutional office-holders in the Deep South. Barring something dramatic occurring, Democrats will have one little spot of blue on the map for at least the next few years. Edwards just needs to hope that his next opponent is as flawed as Vitter.

Shortly after the results became clear, Vitter announced that he would not run for reelection to the Senate. The odds the Democrats win that, too, are probably low.