A couple of weeks ago Public Policy Polling, which hires out to Democrats, published results alleging that support for certain senators, including Landrieu, dropped if they voted against a bill known as “Manchin-Toomey” after its sponsors that would increase the amount and intrusiveness of background checks for ownership, expanding a system that, if anything, increases the likelihood of crimes being committed with guns. Landrieu voted for the bill.
Then yesterday a poll put out by Defend Louisiana, begun as a pro-gun rights by Republican state Rep. Jeff Thompson, showed in contrast that people were less likely to vote for Landrieu as a result of that vote. Haughtily, the Landrieu campaign sniffed that this result was part of a “push poll,” meaning one that had questions designed to lead respondents to a certain answer.
The irony, of course, was that the PPP poll was much closer to this description than the Defend Louisiana effort. The PPP question in question read, “Does Mary Landrieu’s vote in support of background checks make you more or less likely to support her for re-election, or does it not make a difference,” to which 44 percent said more likely, 26 less.
But that’s not what the bill was about. There already are background checks, and anybody not a criminal or survivalist would be as unlikely to support no background checks at all as they would be to vote against apple pie and motherhood; that vote was not about instituting background checks in an environment where none existed. The bill was about expanding them, including problematic sections dealing with expanded and national registries plugged into an inefficient and ineffective system. More accurate would have been a question along the lines of, “Does Mary Landrieu’s vote in support of legislation that expands and increases government intervention in background checks make you more or less likely to support her for re-election, or does it not make a difference?
In contrast, the Defend Louisiana question asked, “Senator Mary Landrieu recently voted for gun control legislation. Does her support of gun control legislation make you more or less likely to vote for her,” where 48 percent said not and 30 percent said it would. This question wording is a statement of fact: Manchin-Toomey is gun control legislation, and she voted for it. It is not as specific as the other in content, but neither is it misleading like the other. It does a more valid job of measuring likely voter sentiment.
Naturally, in both instances just one issue is being measured, so it each case it’s a reach to say what impact that vote has on the decision to vote for her, given the universe and mix of issues and other factors that play into a vote decision. Eighteen months from now, this might rank twentieth on the list of reasons to evaluate a vote to re-elect, or even if it’s the most important the next two or three in rank might weigh twice as heavily. So it’s difficult to say really what impact this issue will have.
Yet far more worrisome to Landrieu should be the Defend Louisiana question that asks about her reelection chances: “Do you favor re-electing Senator Mary Landrieu?” A stunning 45 percent, collected from a sample that of 582 that accurately reflects the racial breakdown of registered voters statewide and actually oversampled on Democrats, said they would not, compared to 37 percent in favor. Intriguingly, the poll also gave a breakdown on the likelihood of voting, and the most likely voters still were 44-39 not in favor.
This shows for any chance of winning a campaign on life support, with the only thing tempering this very bad news for an incumbent is that these results did not come from a heads-up match against declared Republican candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy and it is almost a year-and-a-half to the election. However, should six months from now results like these appear in a Cassidy-Landrieu pairing, barring a major misstep by Cassidy before election day he can call the movers to transfer the contents of his office from the Longworth to Hart building in a year’s time.
As a result of this poll, publicly, the Landrieu campaign showed itself whistling into the wind of a gathering storm. Privately, unless it is comprised of complete political tyros, it must be scrambling to find a way to stave off the ever-increasing likelihood that Landrieu’s Senate career ends after 18 years.