A recent survey by Southern Media & Opinion Research (SMOR) shows just how Louisiana voters feel about budget cuts and whom to congratulate or blame for those cuts. Massive budget cuts have been made in Louisiana that have hit hardest on higher education and health care. Hospitals are closing or shrinking in size, medical teaching programs are being scaled back, and higher education is experiencing cuts that some say will affect the quality of teaching and the retention of good professors. So how do voters feel about all of this?
I suppose voters like the idea of budget cuts. Government is fat, bloated and wasteful. But the poll clearly shows that state voters say enough is enough. Nearly 68% of those surveyed say the state has cut enough. Even those who want more cuts donâ€™t want those cuts in health care or higher education. Tax increases wonâ€™t be popular and eliminating tax exemptions wonâ€™t be popular either when the special interests invade Baton Rouge to protect their turf. Louisiana is not immune from the tough decisions, and the governor and the legislature must take a leadership role in guiding the state through these difficult times.
The media and politicians like to look for someone to blame, and the poll put Governor Bobby Jindal front and center. Gov. Jindalâ€™s job approval is now rated at 51% favorable and 45% unfavorable. The poll does not ask why the governorâ€™s approval has dropped from the mid 60% approval a year ago, but there is no doubt that the publicity over the budget cuts has taken its toll. The governorâ€™s frequent out of town trips in support of Republican campaigns and causes has not helped either. It has certainly galvanized Democrat voters in this presidential election year. (Sixty-three percent of those voters do not approve of the Governorâ€™s job according to SMOR.) With the state in fiscal crisis, voters have the opinion that the governor isnâ€™t on top of things. Although voter opinions are divided, nearly 46% of voters in the survey say Louisianaâ€™s governor should not get involved in national politics while 41% favor such activity and 13% donâ€™t know or wonâ€™t say.
Donâ€™t make the mistake of underestimating Bobby Jindal. He has proven to be resilient and smart. He has mastered the art of politics. He is not afraid to make tough decisions and not afraid to defend them. Some call this leadership. The Democrat Party sees the stateâ€™s budget woes as an opportunity to return to power. That may be overly optimistic at least at this point. The future has yet to be written, and Bobby Jindal has not yet put pen to paper if he chooses to do so.
One thing is for sure. The next legislative session should be a challenge. The economy is not expected to pick up in any great way, and voters are not in the mood for more cuts. More taxes wonâ€™t be popular either. The governor and the legislature will have more bitter pills to swallow, and voters will be watching and looking over their shoulders. All of this will impact the Senate race in 2014 if Gov. Jindal runs and the governorship and legislative races in 2015.
Sen. Mary Landrieu. Sen. Landrieu is the highest rated statewide elected official measured in the SMOR poll. Landrieu receives a 62% positive job rating with only a 28% negative rating. This is great news for an incumbent facing re-election in 2014. The only bad news is the stateâ€™s opposition to Obama Care, 52% oppose it, which Sen. Landrieu voted for. That could be a big issue in the election and by the time of the election voters will know a lot more about Obama Care and how it impacts their lives. If Gov. Jindal makes this race, his record will also be on the line. According to the SMOR poll, Sen. Landrieu does better with Republicans than Gov. Jindal does with Democrats. From a political junkieâ€™s perspective, this would be a great race offering Louisiana two different views of how the state should be represented in Washington. It would be a real choice for voters.
Obama and Romney. The SMOR survey clearly shows that Mitt Romney, barring a major collapse by him, will carry the state on November 6th. Louisiana is a red state and will remain so through this election cycle. With 17% of Democrats undecided and nearly 30% of those who listed their political party as â€śOtherâ€ť also undecided, most of these voters will most likely cast their ballots for Mitt Romney. Why you ask? If a Democrat is undecided about his vote for a Democrat incumbent president, then that voter is not likely to vote for the incumbent. Since President Obama is universally known by voters and nearly 30% of â€śOtherâ€ť voters (SMOR) wonâ€™t say they are voting for him, then it is likely they wonâ€™t vote for him either. So while Mitt Romneyâ€™s campaign at least so far has been uninspiring, lackluster, and vague on the issues, he has the advantage in Louisiana of not being Barack Obama. This will be sufficient for him to carry the state. If only Romney could be doing this well elsewhere.
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