Nervous Numbers for Vitter and Trump

Sept. 4, 2015 — It’s basically been a foregone conclusion that Sen. David Vitter (R) would win Louisiana’s open governor’s race later this year, but a new poll gives reason to pause.

Pollster Verne Kennedy’s Market Research Insight just surveyed the Bayou State electorate (Aug. 26; 600 registered Louisiana voters) and finds, as virtually every other pollster has so far discovered, that Sen. Vitter’s numbers are low. Though he leads every poll, including this one, his support figures are not where one would expect for a multi-term incumbent senator engaged in an open statewide campaign.

According to the MRI data, Vitter has a 24-21-21-13 percent edge over state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D), Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R), and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R), respectively, in the jungle primary election scheduled for Oct. 24, later this year. Should no one reach the majority plateau, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, would advance to a Nov. 21 run-off contest.

First, some polling analysis: the numbers are low across the board, which may be a result of survey methodology rather than voters not having a better sense of the gubernatorial contenders.

Additionally, the Kennedy polls historically record a high number of undecided or uncommitted respondents, typically more than most other research firms. Furthermore, the summer doldrums causes people to pay less attention to politics, thus leading to an easy “I don’t know” answer. This situation is obviously more prevalent during the weeks before prime campaign time.

Vitter’s danger signal here is not the low commit numbers, but his potential of being cast into the November run-off with another Republican. The finding that could truly prove problematic for the senator is Angelle potentially slipping past Democrat John Bel Edwards to claim second position. Vitter is in strong position for the run-off if he is pitted against Edwards, the lone Democrat in the field. His chances take a serious dip if he faces a more local Republican.

Vitter serving in Washington consecutively since winning a 1999 special congressional election taints him with a poor national political climate. It ties him to the record low opinion voters, especially conservatives, have about their national leaders. Therefore, a well-funded Angelle campaign could take advantage of the negative sentiment, and capitalize before a low-turnout electorate.

The odds still favor Edwards making the run-off simply because he is the only Democrat in the field and will get overwhelming support from his party’s voters. With four Republicans in the race, the mathematics clearly works to Edwards benefit and he will likely prevail for second place.

Additionally, Sen. Vitter has traditionally finished better in his actual elections than polling. Surveys never predicted him to be the winner of his first congressional special election, and there was little indication he would win his first Senate race outright in the jungle primary. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see this same under-polling quirk previously associated with Vitter again appear in this campaign.

Iowa –- Carson Surprises

Monmouth University released a new Iowa survey at the beginning of the week (Aug. 27-30; 405 previous Iowa Republican primary participants), revealing its surprising conclusion. According to the New Jersey University’s results, Dr. Ben Carson has pulled even with Donald Trump in their Iowa Caucus projection. The two drew an equal 23 percent preference.

The other interesting findings were Jeb Bush falling all the way to 5 percent, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker losing two-thirds of his previous support despite maintaining strong personal approval ratings (64:16 percent favorable to unfavorable).

The latter two results are consistent with other pollsters’ data. Gov. Walker appears to be a victim of the Trump juggernaut, simply being left behind even though he has made no mistakes. Trump zeroing in non-stop on Bush is clearly dragging down the former Florida governor’s national effort, which data across the board supports.

But the Carson number, however, may be an anomaly. There simply is no external reason to justify a huge Carson leap forward, nor such a steep Trump decline. Therefore, confirming data will have to be brought forth before this particular poll should be taken seriously.

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