Among other things, the recent survey by Southern Media and Opinion Research looked at answers for likely voters for the offices of senator and governor. For the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Mary Landrieu, she led U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy 41-34 percent, with another Republican challenger recent state arrival Rob Maness at 10 percent.
Ever since Cassidy formally announced his candidacy and data like this from time to time would surface, this space has pointed out the problematic chances of Landrieu’s reelection even as other analysts continued to imagine strength in her bid not reflective of the actual data. Not so this data, which not only showed she would lose a general election runoff to Cassidy, but also contained information that of the representative sample less than half approved of her job performance, over half said someone new should be elected, a large majority of the undecided and those who would not reveal a choice would vote against a candidate who favored the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that she favors, and that as its members discovered more about Cassidy, who unlike Landrieu has much lower name recognition, his approval ratings improved. Perhaps these results finally should disabuse anybody of the notion that Landrieu is favored in any way in the contest. In fact, it’s now questionable that she isn’t a distinct underdog.
Of course, a dispassionate review of the environment should have alerted any perspicacious analyst of this. It was clear long ago that revelations of the internal contradictions of Obamacare in action would damage her and that she faced unfavorable dynamics from the start. Still almost a year away from the actual vote where anything can happen in the interim, the political history has an unpleasant lesson for her partisans: incumbents with this profile simply do not win reelection.
Nor does the news for Democrats get better with hypothetical fields for the governor’s race. The only announced candidate for the job, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, is one and shows he nearly drags the rear with just 8 percent of the very early vote. Topping it was Sen. David Vitter at 30 percent followed by Treasurer John Kennedy at 19 percent and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne at 18 percent. Actually dragging the rear is Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle at 2 percent.
Of course, with this about two years out from decision a third of the electorate remains undecided, a significant portion of the electorate is not aware of some candidates, especially concerning Angelle and Edwards, and support for some probably is soft. Regardless, at this juncture, Vitter clearly holds the advantage should he become a candidate.
Not only does he have the early lead, but his demographic reach is impressive. Already over half of Republicans say he is their choice (Dardenne is next almost 30 points behind), but also over 18 percent of Democrats (just behind Kennedy for the most) and, most intriguingly, almost 15 percent of blacks (with Kennedy only ahead of him, by almost 10 percentage points) tab him as their choice as well.
As more information comes out about candidates, the advantage he has among Republicans is not likely to erode much, if at all. And given that he already is well known, as long as a black candidate doesn’t enter the race (none are foreseen), current black and Democrat support for him should diminish little, if at all. Any candidate that starts from these base numbers would be almost impossible to defeat.
And it doesn’t look as if there’s much room for support to grow for the other candidates. Among Vitter, Kennedy, and Dardenne, they all have roughly similar approval ratings at around 60 percent. And if another white Democrat were to enter the race, as a result of this Kennedy and Dardenne are the two most likely to lose Democrats’ support given their perceived populist (Kennedy) and moderate (Dardenne) postures as candidates.
Still, the inability of Edwards to have much traction at all in a state where the plurality of registered voters are Democrats may be matched by disappointment in Angelle’s showing, where rumors of his candidacy may come from a desire by elements loyal to Gov. Bobby Jindal to get a guy in the running. There’s no considered principled conservative in the race other than Vitter, but the thought that Angelle may fill that role perhaps has foundered on some recent questionable decisions he has made on the PSC from a conservative perspective.
If Vitter hesitates from entering the derby only because he waits on a positive sign about his chances, after these numbers he has no remaining excuse to wait. And Democrats are on notice that their chances at the state’s highest office are more fleeting than ever.