Vitter Drops Behind; Pence Update

Aug. 11, 2015 — A new poll suggests that early predictions regarding the Louisiana governor’s race may be changing. It has been a foregone conclusion that Sen. David Vitter (R) will win his state’s open chief executive position later this year, and then appoint his own successor. That may well be the end result, but this latest data indicates his victory path may not be so clear-cut.

Pollster Verne Kennedy’s Market Research Insight, a Pensacola, Florida-based survey research firm that concentrates on southern political campaigns, released a new study placing Vitter behind another Republican candidate but remaining ahead of the top Democrat in the jungle primary format. The polling dates and sample size are not yet available.

According to the reported MRI data, it is now Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) who leads the field with 24 percent, followed by Vitter’s 21 percent, while Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards holds 20 percent.

Since December, nine polls have been made public and only the Kennedy MRI results have shown Sen. Vitter to be trailing. Looking at all nine polls as a group, Vitter’s figures have ranged from a low of 21 percent (MRI twice), to a high of 38 percent. All of these numbers, however, seem low for a two-term senator who has scored strong statewide election victories (56.5 percent in 2010; 51% in 2004 in an open seat contest, winning outright in a field of seven candidates).

This is not the first race in which the Kennedy firm has projected Vitter weakly, so more data will be required before it becomes apparent that he is losing momentum. In his 2010 Republican nomination campaign, the only time in recent political history when the state opted for partisan primaries, MRI projected Vitter to be leading his Republican opponent with only a 46-34 percent margin just days before the vote. When the actual ballots were counted, Vitter topped 88 percent, nowhere close to Kennedy’s understated prediction.

In another major Louisiana miss, MRI projected then-Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA-2), who was a fluke winner in 2008, to be leading eventual winner Cedric Richmond (D) 51-26 percent early in the race. On Election Day, Richmond, then a state Representative, notched a 65-33 percent victory.

Over the years, Sen. Vitter has proven that he runs much better than he polls. Therefore, all of these surveys posting him to low figures should be examined skeptically. It is still highly likely that Vitter will become Louisiana’s next governor at the beginning of next year.

Indiana Governor

For months, most Indiana Democratic Party insiders have been touting Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz as the person best positioned to derail Gov. Mike Pence (R).

Despite his strong performance against Pence in 2012 (losing 49-46 percent), former state House Speaker John Gregg (D) hadn’t been viewed to be a particularly strong candidate. Some favorable polling and the fact that he out-raised Gov. Pence during the first two quarters in 2015, while Ritz fared poorly, began to raise questions about where the Party should be going in terms of fielding a gubernatorial nominee.

Now, the question has finally been answered. Over the weekend Ritz decided to end her campaign, thereby leaving state Sen. Karen Tallian as Gregg’s only primary opponent. Instead, Ritz will seek re-election to her current position.

Gov. Pence’s numbers have languished since the controversy over the heavily publicized Religious Freedom Act arose. With Gregg raising substantial monetary resources and now seeing his strongest opponent fall by the wayside, the Indiana campaign is certainly one to watch. But, in a presidential election year where the eventual Republican nominee is expected to carry Indiana, Pence should still have the political wind at his back.

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