Some thoughts on the new Advocate/WWL governor’s race poll

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A new Baton Rouge Advocate/WWL poll out on Sunday night shows each of his three challengers potentially defeating Sen. David Vitter in a November runoff scenario.

As the Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:

Once the presumptive frontrunner in the race to become Louisiana’s next governor, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter would face a bitter uphill runoff battle against any of his three main foes, according to the latest independent polling. 

Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle each bested Vitter in head-to-head match-ups in the new Advocate/WWL-TV poll. Edwards is a state representative from Amite, Dardenne is the lieutenant governor, and Angelle serves on the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

The poll was conducted by Ron Faucheux, of the Washington-based Clarus Research Group. A nationally recognized polling firm, Clarus is not affiliated with any of the campaigns for governor here.

The poll found that, among those surveyed, Vitter and Edwards are tied at 24 percent in the Oct. 24 primary. Angelle trails at 15 percent, followed by Dardenne at 14 percent.

About 18 percent of likely voters said they are still undecided with a month left until Election Day. A runoff will take place Nov. 21 if, as expected, no candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote.

In the potential runoff scenarios polled by Faucheaux, Edwards leads Vitter 45 percent to 41 percent; Angelle leads Vitter 40 percent to 35 percent; and, Dardenne leads Vitter 42 percent to 35 percent. Here are the cross tabs on the runoff scenarios that Crisp kindly shared with me this morning:

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A few observations about the poll:

  • It generally comports with other recent polls, which suggest that we are likely to have an Edwards-Vitter runoff. A PPP poll released last week, paid for by the anti-Vitter group “Gumbo PAC,” had Edwards barely in the lead with 28 percent and Vitter with 27 percent. Angelle (at 15 percent) and Dardenne (at 14 percent) trailed the two front runners by a wide margin.
  • Vitter is getting more unpopular, no doubt the result of the attacks on him by the Water PAC, Angelle and his super PAC. While the Advocate will presumably release those approval numbers in a subsequent story, the fact that the incumbent senior U.S. senator is polling only 24 percent in a general election primary and only 41 percent against a Democrat in a potential runoff should be deeply troubling to the Vitter camp.
  • Vitter’s aura of invincibility/inevitability is shattered. David Vitter may well be our next governor, but voters and political observers are increasingly entertaining the idea that this may not be a given.
  • Yet, as I tweeted the other day, “A scared David Vitter is a dangerous David Vitter.” He will not take these numbers lying down. And he has many millions more than any of his opponents to sustain a smart, vicious runoff campaign. Vitter might be fading a bit, but he will not likely collapse (assuming there are no more skeletons to fall out of his closet).
  • Vitter’s perceived vulnerability will help Edwards’ fundraising (he already out raised Vitter in the most recent campaign financial reporting period). The more Edwards is seen as a viable Democratic opponent to Vitter, the more he can raise from Democrats in-state and around the country. If Edwards enters the runoff with at least $2 million, that will be more than enough to support a sustained statewide TV campaign against Vitter.
  • Angelle surely believes his attacks on Vitter are working (or that the Water PAC attacks are helping him). While they haven’t resulted in a significant bump in the polls for Angelle, but they do seem to be hurting Vitter. Expect those attacks to only intensify.
  • Vitter still has a women problem. In the general election matchup, he’s the only one with a significant gender gap. His support among men (28 percent) is 30 percent higher than his support among women (20 percent).
  • Edwards’ numbers in the runoff scenario are artificially low. He polls at 73 percent among African Americans. He will certainly get more than 90 percent of that vote in a runoff, just like every other major Democratic in a statewide race. In her losing race last year, former Sen. Mary Landrieu received 94 percent of the black vote (in the primary and, presumably, in the runoff). It’s also worth noting that Edwards only polls 45 percent among blacks in the primary matchup. That number will almost certainly be much higher on election day.
  • Edwards performs far better, so far, than Landrieu among white voters. In last year’s Senate primary, Landrieu earned a pitiful 18 percent of the white vote. It doesn’t appear she did much better among whites in the runoff. While he only polls at 14 percent among whites in the primary match-up,  Edwards gets 32 percent of whites in the potential runoff scenario. If he holds at that percentage, or increases it slightly, Edwards is our next governor.
  • That said, Edwards’ numbers are probably artificially high in the runoff scenario because he is the only one of the three major candidates who has not been attacked in television ads. Because Vitter knows his best shot is a matchup with Edwards, he will save his fire until the runoff. The other two Republicans have no reason to attack Edwards. It’s Vitter they need to knock off in the primary. Once Edwards begins to feel the sting of Vitter’s attack ads, that 45 percent might not hold.
  • Expect Vitter and his allies to attack this poll, as they have the others. I respect Faucheaux immensely. He is, however, a former Democratic state legislator and Sen. Mary Landrieu’s former chief of staff. While I trust his numbers, Vitter’s campaign will probably try to undermine the pollster’s credibility (that the owner of the Advocate, John Georges, considered entering the governor’s race gives Vitter additional ammunition to undermine the poll). All that will be difficult, however, because the polling generally comports with everything we’ve seen over the past month.
  • We haven’t seen all the internal numbers from the Advocate and WWL. The only reason we have these cross tabs is because I asked for them last night and again this morning — and Crisp was kind enough to share them with me and post them on Twitter. Strangely, however, the Advocate and WWL did not post or link to the cross tabs in their stories (as of 10:45 a.m. on Monday, at least). Some have questioned my screaming about this on Twitter this morning. No disrespect meant to the Advocate (and I applaud them for running this poll), but it is standard operating procedure for a newspaper to share with its readers the questionnaire and demographic breakdowns of polls it publishes — and especially those surveys it commissions. Let’s hope the Advocate gives us that information in future stories.
  • Does this poll indicate a fundamental shift in Louisiana politics? In other words, can Edwards, a Democrat, beat Vitter, a Republican, in a state that has not elected a Democrat statewide since 2008? It’s just too early to tell. As I said above, Edwards has not yet been attacked. The runoff is two months down the road. Show me a poll in mid-November that has Edwards still leading Vitter and I’ll believe that it’s possible. Until then, color me still a bit skeptical that anything fundamental has changed in Louisiana politics. As this poll shows, Dardenne and Angelle seem to be stronger runoff opponents for Vitter.
  • The question is, do either Dardenne or Angelle have a chance to make the runoff? Based on these numbers, the path to a runoff spot for either candidate is getting narrower by the day. It’s possible, but one of them needs to make a move fast. The bottom line: Despite all the bad news this new polls contains for him, this race could still be Vitter’s to lose.
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11 Responses to Some thoughts on the new Advocate/WWL governor’s race poll

  1. Jacques Ambers says:

    Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone. From: Something Like the TruthSent: Monday, September 28, 2015 10:53 AMTo: jacquesambers@gmail.comReply To: Something Like the Truth‎Subject: [New post] Some thoughts on the new Advocate/WWL governor’s race poll

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    Robert Mann posted: ”

    By Robert Mann

    A new Baton Rouge Advocate/WWL poll out on Sunday night shows each of his three challengers potentially defeating Sen. David Vitter in a November runoff scenario.

    As the Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:

    Once the presumptive frontrun”


  2. Stephen Winham says:

    Thanks for this excellent analysis, Bob.

    Edwards is a moderate with a clean record The only way he can be attacked is on what will be characterized as his liberal views, probably accompanied by comparisons to Obama (to retain appeal to those who hate all things Obama).

    I could be wrong, but I think most people in Louisiana who are in a conscious mental state
    know Edwards’ stance on most issues already, so attacking his positions should have a lesser effect than they would with a lesser known candidate. Not all Democrats agree with his positions on every issue. I have only one disagreement with him, his position on Common Core, which is essentially the same as Vitter’s so it is neutralized as a factor in who I will vote for in a runoff between the two.

    I get the impression Angelle has picked up some of the EWE mystique, so a significant number of votes he may draw from John Bel Edwards in the general election should go to John Bel in the runoff. Since Jay Dardenne is also a moderate, we’d have to hope a lot of his support would also go to Edwards in the runoff.

    All this is good news for Edwards, but as you make clear, anything can happen – and as the late, great Yogi Berra might add, “…often does.”


  3. Robert Burns says:

    Very insightful analysis, Dr. Mann! I agree with your assessments, particularly your repeatedly emphasizing a lack of negative ads against Edwards. He still has over three weeks to enjoy that free ride (a good analogy is him relaxing on an inner tube going down the river while Angelle, Dardenne, and Vitter have been in the “rough waters” for about three weeks). When Edwards hits the rough waters, expect his inner tube to be flipped several times, and he’ll have to stand up and hope he’s not in too deep of water to quickly mount back on the tube.

    As far as Stephen’s comment about having nothing to attack Edwards on that isn’t already known, I would challenge that. Edwards has repeatedly said that our present legal environment is “working just fine.” That’s what the man said!!!! The average person understands why Louisiana’s car insurance rates are sky high, and Edwards’ stance is the chief reason!! The average threshold for having a right to a trial by jury for civil matters is approximately $1,700 across this nation. What is Louisiana’s? $50,000. It’s by FAR the highest in the nation (Maryland is a distant second at $15,000). Here’s a study indicating just how much this absurd statute is costing all of us:

    There’s a REASON the trial lawyers are fighting so hard against Vitter, and that reason is simple. None of the other three candidates pose ANY serious threat to their gravy train. Dardenne does support a reduction to $25,000, and that would help some, but the threshold really needs to be dropped to ZERO! If I’m willing to post a jury bond, I should be entitled to a trial by my peers entailing civil liability. It SHOULD be a constitutional right, yet Edwards not only opposes me having that right, but he does so ADAMANTLY!!

    Edwards was also provided with an opportunity to weigh in on obstructionist occupational licensing boards and commissions, and all he would say is “I have a friend who expressed concerns about his rights as a landowner.” The question had NOTHING to do with rights as a landowner and was VERY, VERY specific to occupational licensing boards and commissions. Sen. Vitter, who did NOT have the question in advance, responded with FAR, FAR more specificity: As the video clearly indicates, Vitter is expressing a willingness to work with Congressman Cao to resolve the problems the Vietnamese community is encountering with the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology as evidenced by Congressman Cao’s recent testimony before a Louisiana Senate Committee: At last week’s Vietnamese Fair in Marrero, Sen. Vitter was the ONLY gubernatorial candidate present to listen to the concerns of the Vietnamese community. It is THAT type of personal care that is going to result in a Vitter win. People are motivated to show up at polls and support someone willing to help them overcome burdensome Louisiana statutes (e.g. the $50,000 threshold for civil lawsuits) and occupational obstructionist boards and commission (e.g. the State Board of Cosmetology). In contrast, Edwards offers the status quo, and that’s a difficult stand to motivate folk to go pull his lever. Just my thoughts for what they may be worth.


    • Stephen Winham says:

      Robert, I’ve known where you stand from early on and I respect your reasons. I just disagree that Senator Vitter is the person for the job.


      • Robert Burns says:

        Sounds fair, Stephen. My family members all are from the Amite area, and that’s where we have our Thanksgiving meal each year. THIS year’s Thanksgiving meal ought to be really interesting because we will be fresh off the election results!


  4. June Butler says:

    “The runoff is two months down the road. Show me a poll in mid-November that has Edwards still leading Vitter and I’ll believe that it’s possible. Until then, color me still a bit skeptical that anything fundamental has changed in Louisiana politics.”

    Bob, I agree. In a race between a candidate with an (R) behind the name and a candidate with a (D), Louisiana voters (those who bother) are likely to revert to type and vote Republican, despite Vitter’s high negatives. Still, at this point, I remain hopeful about Edwards’ chances. Mary Landrieu had high negatives working against her with both Republicans and Democrats, and Edwards does not carry that baggage. Dardenne and Angelle will have to work fast to catch up and be in the runoff.

    What I hope is that Democrats do not count on the prostitution story to block Vitter’s election. Most Louisiana voters know the story, and his engagements with prostitutes did not prevent his election and reelection to the Senate. The focus should rather be on his unresponsiveness and arrogance in refusing to engage with the other candidates and his refusal to state his policies when questioned, thus trying to put himself above the fray, and leaving vicious campaign attacks to surrogates in pro-Vitter PACs. Haven’t we had enough of lack of transparency and disengagement with citizens of Louisiana?


  5. Fredster says:

    So maybe it’s time to show some love for Mr. Edwards via a contribution.


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