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Latest polling has Landrieu ahead in her re-election bid

27th August 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

Progressive Policy Polling had excellent news last week for Louisiana’s Senior U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu last Thursday. In yet another survey, the three-term Democrat leads GOP Congressman Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge by a 50-40 margin.

A GOP poll raised some warning signs for her later that day; however, neither survey asked the fundamental question obsessing insiders. How would Landrieu would fare facing Gov. Bobby Jindal for the Senate in Nov. 2014? It is a question that both polls seemingly avoided deliberately, though for very different reasons.

According to PPP, almost a quarter of La. Republicans support Landrieu, even though her job approval is a middling 46-43. As pollster Tom Jensen notes, most undecideds lean to the right, so this gap will likely close; nevertheless, the survey bolster’s Landrieu’s argument that she can win re-election in an increasingly Red State, even when control of the U.S .Senate falls to whether she is re-elected or not next autumn.

The PPP survey is the first to actually poll the reality of Louisiana’s open primary system. It notes Cassidy’s support plummets when multiple Republicans are included in various matchups. Louisiana law specifies that all candidates run together on a single ballot, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff if no one clears 50 percent.

Currently Retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness stands as the only other declared GOP hopeful, though new-minted Republican African-American State Sen. Elbert Guillory has also expressed interest. When both of these candidates are included, Landrieu still stands tantalizing close to a first primary victory with 47 percent of the vote. Cassidy hovers at just 20 percent, Guillory at six percent, and Maness at two percent. Twenty-three percent remain undecided. If the Black GOP State Senator does not run, the numbers are even better for the incumbent with Landrieu jumping to 48, Cassidy at 24, Maness at five, and undecideds at 25.

A head-to-head matchup, though—conducted ostensibly for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Louisiana Republican Party—puts Landrieu ahead of Cassidy 44 to 40. This survey does not poll either Maness or Guillory, and seems to indicate that when facing a traditional D vs. R matchup, Republicans generally come home.

The Republican poll does little to contradict the PPP survey’s tantalizing promise of Landrieu winning in the first primary against a crowded field with no GOP contender enjoying statewide name recognition. Such a strategy was the key David Vitter’s victory in 2004, as the right unified behind the Metairie Congressman, and the left divided between three candidates. Still, the GOP poll, conducted by the firm OnMessage, seems to argue that while Landrieu leads Cassidy narrowly, against another, better-known Republican opponent, she could be weak—and that’s the important subtext.

In other words, neither poll mentions the possible candidacy of Governor Bobby Jindal. That’s peculiar considering that OnMes­sage is owned by the Governor’s closest friend and political ally, Timmy Teppell. And due to the fact that this survey emphasizes, right after listing its Senatorial findings, that Jindal has made up much of the gain from his much-discussed drop in the polls, and now sports a 50 percent approval rating.

Prior independent polls taken this spring showed the Governor’s popularity in the mid-thirties, and last week’s PPP survey put the Jindal’s approval rating at just 28 percent.

However, the flaw in the PPP poll is its decision not to include the Governor in one of its candidate scenarios against Landrieu. Could including him have meant that much of the GOP undecided would coalesce around Jindal for no other reason than name recognition? The Democratic-leaning pollsters made the point of showing his 28 percent approval, yet did not consider whether he would be a stronger general election candidate against Landrieu?

OnMessage did the same thing, but for a different purpose. The GOP firm effectively trumpeted a poll highlighting Jindal’s strength, and simultaneously listed Landrieu’s weaknesses. It also made a point of not judging each’s comparative numbers in a Senatorial contest—at least publically.

However, OnMessage’s undoubted subtext is that Jindal remains more popular than Landrieu. Might this be a proverbial “toe in the water” for a Senate bid? That theory gains credence when one learns that this poll was paid for by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign.

Initially OnMessage Inc. declared the survey was conducted “on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee” but later refused to contradict press reports that Jindal was the paymaster.

And, that the Governor’s team was behind the poll makes sense for another reason. The Senior US Senator has defended her vote for the Affordable Care Act, but the OnMessage survey makes a point of citing Obamacare as being very unpopular in Louisiana—while EQUALLY NOTING that a majority of the state voters approved of Governor Jindal’s rejection of Medicaid expansion—an act for which Landrieu was highly critical.

OnMessage’s Wes Anderson said, “Senator Landrieu faces her biggest challenge in 12 years. Landrieu currently holds a very slim four-point lead over Con­gressman Cassidy (45 percent Landrieu, 41 percent Cassidy). The 17 year incumbent finds herself under 50 percent and nearly tied with her principal challenger just a little more than a year from the election. Among those voters that have a defined opinion of both candidates (either favorable or unfavorable) the ballot stands at 41 percent Landrieu, 52 percent Cassidy. This finding strongly indicates a significant intensity advantage for Cassidy. This survey makes it clear that Landrieu is likely to face a very hostile environment in 2014.”

His unspoken subtext, that Landrieu could do much worse when facing another candidate, though, goes against the PPP surveys of issues like the Democratic Senator’s gun control vote. This Progressive Policy Poll, released on May 2, indicated that Land­rieu’s opposing to the NRA may have improved her chances of re-election.

PPP conducted surveys in North Carolina and Louisiana, states with a GOP Senator who opposed the post-Newtown gun bill and a Democrat who voted for the final product. Against all prediction, Landrieu’s polls improved when she voted for background checks, as did fellow Democratic Senator Kay Hagan’s. Both North Carolina and particularly Louisiana are red-leaning, and they each have a Democratic senator up for re-election next year who voted in favor of enhanced background checks. They also both have a Republican senator who voted against.

The liberal website Dailykos noted, “Outdated conventional wisdom says that both Landrieu and [NC Democrat Kay] Hagan took a major risk in supporting background checks, but it actually looks like they may have helped themselves: Landrieu’s approvals have jumped, while a majority say Hagan’s vote makes them more like to voter for her. Meanwhile, their GOP counterparts have, like ‘no’ voters elsewhere, put themselves in rougher shape electorally, especially [NC Republican Richard] Burr. “

Undoubtedly the NRA will try to blur all distinctions and paint senators like Hagan and Landrieu as jackbooted gun-grabbers—but they were going to do that anyway. Now, instead, supporters of expanded background checks will be able to say that they stood up for a popular, common-sense measure, and if they play their cards right, it’ll be their opponents who wind up on the defensive.”

While last week’s PPP survey did not poll Jindal in the U.S. Senate race, it did poll matchups of potentials in the race to succeed him in Nov. 2014.

New Orleans Mayor (and brother of Mary) Mitch Landrieu leads both GOP candidates tested, Sen. David Vitter (by a 45-42 margin) and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (45-35), thanks in part to his strong 44-24 favorability rating. But several other big name Republicans are also considering, like Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, state Treasurer John Kennedy, and even soon-to-be-ex-Rep. Rodney Alexander, and they’d all appear together on a single ballot.

As noted, PPP did find that the Governor’s approval rating fell to 28-59. As Tom Jensen observed two years ago, Jindal was the most popular governor in the country, with a 58-34 job approval rating. Now, thanks in part to years of feuding with fellow Republicans in the legislature, who have derailed some of his signature initiatives, he’s at 28 percent.

How he stands against Mary Landrieu? That still remains a pollable question.

This article originally published in the August 26, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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