1) OK, who wants to take a shower after Monday's debate?
David Vitter has never been asked so directly about, or attacked so relentlessly over his 2007 prostitution scandal. (The incriminating phone records were discovered that year, but as Vitter repeatedly said, the incidents happened 15 years ago).
It was loud, boisterous and brutal. The candidates shouted over the moderators and the audience, packed with supporters of both camps, cheered and hooted with gusto.
John Bel Edwards, who's running largely on a platform of integrity and honor, seized every opportunity to draw the contrast. Vitter said he's sought forgiveness, "tried like heck" to earn voters' trust and blamed the "gotcha media" for keeping the issue alive. Edwards said that as Christians, we're all obligated to forgive, but not to forget or vote for someone who's committed a crime.
Vitter hammered Edwards for having an event last week at a "very adult New Orleans night club" and hiring a purple party bus to ferry voters to the polls for early voting. Edwards said he was there with his wife. "Not as interesting as your date night, Senator," he added.
Just how much has this issue dominated the campaign, knocked Vitter off his game and cut into his once dominant lead? So much that, rather than avoiding the topic as he has for years, he repeatedly tried to defuse the damage by bringing it up himself. Even his brief closing used the scandal as a starting point.
"Fifteen years ago I faced the darkest day in my life" when he had to tell his kids what he'd done, Vitter said. They, in turn, gave me "the best day of my life" by offering love and forgiveness, he said. As he has in his ads, he compared his own travails to Louisiana's.
Vitter also keyed in on the scandal when asked a question about his wife Wendy. He said she taught their four kids an invaluable lesson. ""Of course, I wish they didn’t have to learn it that way," he said.
2) Vitter has long sought to link Edwards to President Barack Obama, and Edwards has tried to hang unpopular Gov. Bobby Jindal around Vitter's neck. In a variation on the theme, Vitter did his best Monday to suggest that Edwards has done more to enable Jindal's disastrous policies by voting for five of his eight budgets, which included cuts to higher education. Edwards said lawmakers have to make tough votes.
"I don't even know the last time the Senate passed a budget," he said. Edwards also pointed out that Vitter had endorsed Jindal for governor three times. Vitter's response: That's better than backing President Barack Obama.
3) Yes, the candidates did talk about issues as well. Both jumped on the bandwagon and said that, in light of the Paris massacre, they'd keep Syrian refugees out of Louisiana (it's not at all clear that can happen, despite Jindals' executive order). Vitter accused Edwards of taking four different positions in the past 48 hours, and said he's been against refugee resettlement since before Paris.
Both said they'd cut high executive salaries that Jindal pays, and hire cabinets and staffs that look like Louisiana. Both promised to release details about how they'd deal with the budget mess before calling special legislative sessions, and to hold town hall meetings about the proposals.
They squabbled over several other financial issues, though, and Vitter at one point called Edwards a "Johnny Bel come lately" on budgetary reform.
Edwards said he'd raise the state minimum wage to $8.50 if Congress doesn’t act. Vitter wouldn't and said he'd improve job training. Edwards said the state can do both. "We can chew gum and walk at the same time."