BATON ROUGE – As Johnny Wendell would say, "Come on down!"
Come on down, that is, to see – and have lunch with – the newest star on the political walkway, the adult industry's own Stormy Daniels, who'll be listening (and probably speaking a bit as well) to Louisiana citizens at the Roux House, 143 3rd Street in Baton Rouge at noon on Tuesday.
It's all part of her "listening tour," during which she'll be gauging how open Louisianans are to being represented in the United States Senate by a bright, articulate, politically savvy 30-year-old who just happens to make her living as an actress in, and producer and director of, adult movies.
"She's doing a listening tour, so that's going to involve a couple of things," said political consultant Brian Welsh, co-creator of the DraftStormy.com website. "First, she's going to be talking about her message, which is a great message: Parental responsibility when it comes to children online. As you know, she has a really good record of supporting efforts through the RTA [Restricted To Adult labeling system] and ASACP [Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection] to urge parents and to really educate parents that the number one way that we can protect our children online is through parental responsibility. And the message that she has been talking about for years now was just borne out by that study done in Harvard by 40 states' attorney generals, the heads of Verizon, Facebook and others, that the number one way to protect children online from inappropriate material for them and from online predators is to watch your kids online and to take those steps that will protect them, including signing up for the RTA. And after that, she'll be talking about what's important to her in the context of the personal responsibility and 'what can we do as Louisianans and as Americans to improve our country and what sort of responsibility can we take for that?' Because really, the only answer to bigger government is for us to take responsibility for the things in our lives that we don't want the government involved in. But there is that responsibility on our part."
While the "Draft Stormy" campaign originated as a ploy to challenge Louisiana's Sen. David Vitter on sexual issues – Welsh was one of those who helped expose Vitter's extramarital liaisons with New Orleans prostitutes – the campaign seems to have moved far beyond that, with Daniels as a legitimate office-seeker with an important social agenda: Making it clear that adult material is for adults only, and educating parents that the best way to keep their kids from seeing online porn and away from predators is to personally monitor their online activities.
"She's not a professional politician, but she's a smart woman," said a source close to Daniels. "She does fall within the guidelines; she just turned 30, has a residence out there, and the election's not until November 2010, so she's got plenty of time, and if she paces herself – not only does she not have anything to lose, but people have said, 'Well, they're going to put everything out there for the public,' and she's said, 'Well, I've got nothing to hide.' That's the whole thing of the campaign: 'I've got nothing to hide.' What are they going to do? Look at her and say, 'Do you think a sex tape might surface?' And she'll be like, 'As a matter of fact, if you go out on the street, [Wicked Pictures'] Operation Tropical Stormy is the number one selling movie in stores right now.'"
But despite her association with the adult industry, she's far from a one-note politician.
"On this tour, she'll be talking to average Louisianans about the issues that affect them the most, the economic situation and the situation here in Louisiana specifically," Welsh said. "She wants to hear from the voters, what are their major concerns, and what are the things that she needs to do and know if she decides to go on and announce and run for Senate; what are the kinds of things that she should be talking about?"
And Daniels has chosen the right places to do it: The Roux House, an upscale restaurant right in the center of Baton Rouge's business district, and on Wednesday, at Mike Serio's Po' Boys & Deli, 133 St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans, just off Canal Street in the French Quarter.
After all, if people can't express their true political feelings over a good lunch, when can they?
One of the things Daniels will be trying to resolve during the listening tour is not only what campaign she'll be trying to craft, but also whose sensibilities her interests are most in tune with.
"Whether she runs as a Republican, Democrat or Independent, her message of personal responsibility and taking responsibility for your actions, both as parents and as Americans, will resonate across party lines," Welsh assured.
And considering Daniels' competition for a Senate seat – Vitter and "blue dog" (conservative) Democrat Mary Landrieu – a campaign that stresses both personal and economic responsibility together with a progressive social agenda might just find a welcome fit in a state whose income has historically been derived in part from a booming tourism and film industry, but which it remains less able to fulfill due to ongoing repairs from 2005's Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and last year's Hurricane Gustav.
"Right now, my only intention is to draw a lot of attention to the race and to some causes I feel strongly about," Daniels told Louisiana's WAFB-TV in a recent interview. "I'm not going to make that decision [about whether to run] until after I do the listening tour. I didn't think I had a chance at all, but with so much feedback and encouragement, I guess you never know."
One of her concerns: "I have a ton of other commitments, and I don't know if I want I want to take the pay cut that comes with being a senator."