Perkins Contemplating Primary Challenge to Vitter

There have been several articles speculating, as far back as last year, that the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins might be considering a challenge to Louisiana Senator David Vitter stemming, in large part, from Vitter’s ties to a prostitution ring.  

As such, as he looks ahead to his re-election campaign, Vitter has been working hard to seal off his right flank from any potential challenge, such as Perkins, by unleashing a flurry of legislation aimed at establishing himself as one of the Religious Right’s most committed and vocal allies on Capitol Hill.

But it looks like it might not be enough, because Politico has gotten Perkins to go on the record for the first time about his interest in possibly challenging Vitter … and while Perkins is non-committal at the moment, he certainly sounds like someone who senses an opportunity:

Perkins tells POLITICO he just might [present a serious challenge for Vitter].

“I will say this: I have people in Louisiana encouraging me to consider it,” said Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator who joined the FRC after losing to Vitter in the 2002 Senate primary.

When Vitter’s name turned up in the phone book of “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey in 2007, Perkins said “there’s room to make a mistake and come back” — and said that even he’d vote for his friend Vitter again if Vitter could show that he had “moved on” from the scandal.

Two years later, however, Perkins says it’s still a problem for Vitter.

“I don’t think he needs to say anything else about it, but I don’t think he can do anything else about it,” Perkins said. “Can people feel a sense of trust in him to publicly stand with him and support him and help him? Maybe he has [gotten to that point]. I know I still get some questions. I think he is certainly vulnerable [to] a challenge from the right — a candidate without issues.”

While Perkins is not generally known for making the sorts of outrageous statements that plague many of his Religious Right allies, if he thinks that he’d be a “candidate without issues,” he is sorely mistaken.

For its part, the National Republican Senatorial Committee says it’ll be supporting Vitter in his re-election bid, but Perkins seems to sense that he just might be able to suck up enough of the right-wing vote in the primary to knock Vitter off:   

Having spent the past five years at the vanguard of the social conservative movement, Perkins could stand between Vitter and the conservative base he needs.

Perkins wouldn’t say for certain whether he’ll enter the race. He said he could decide to stay out of it for the sake of his family.

At the same time, however, he said: “Politically, it may be an advantageous time for me to run.”