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:
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.