Vitter Wavering; Leadership Update

Sept. 30, 2015 — The last few released polls have been sending warning signals to Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) in his quest to win the 2015 open governor’s race. The brand new Clarus Research Group survey conducted for the Louisiana Advocate and WWL-TV (released Sept. 27; 800 registered Louisiana voters) again finds the two-term senator and former House member struggling.

According to the CRG data, Vitter and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards would tie at 24 percent in the Oct. 24 jungle primary, and then advance to the Nov. 21 run-off election. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) is next with 15 percent, with Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) just behind at 14 percent support. These results are consistent with many other recently released studies.

But, it is the run-off match-ups that are most interesting, particularly in relation to how Sen. Vitter fares. In each instance, the senator would trail his opponent in a head-to-head contest.

Against Edwards, Sen. Vitter falls behind 41-45 percent. If Angelle were to qualify, he would lead Vitter 40-35 percent. Finally, even against Lt. Gov. Dardenne, who has been last in jungle primary polling for months, Vitter would again be behind. In this configuration, Dardenne would actually lead by the largest margin of all, 42-35 percent.

Faring poorly in polls is nothing new for Vitter. He has under-polled in every race he’s entered, meaning that he could also get a voting booth boost come late next month. Vitter does have a substantial money advantage over all of his opponents, a virtual 4:1 dollar-to-dollar edge heading into the final weeks of the campaign. In addition, a pro-Vitter Super PAC has another $3 million-plus sitting in its account, far more than any other outside organization possesses in favor of one of his opponents or in opposition to him.

The Louisiana governor’s primary is far from over, and anything can still happen. Still, the continued polling placing him in a weaker-than-expected position has to be considered troubling for Sen. Vitter and his supporting forces.

Leadership Contests

The campaigns to replace House Speaker John Boehner are becoming clearer. As expected, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) officially announced his candidacy to succeed the outgoing Speaker, and he is considered the strong favorite at the beginning of the internal campaign.

Florida Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL-10), who was a late entry against Boehner earlier this year, is reportedly leaning toward running to give the conservative coalition a viable candidate. His main problem, however, is likely the Florida redistricting situation. The court-ordered re-draw does not look favorable for Webster. In fact, if the preliminary map is eventually adopted, he is almost certain not to be a member of the 115th Congress.

In the Majority Leader’s contest, now official with McCarthy vacating to run for Speaker, current Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (D-WA-5) announced that she will not attempt to ascend the internal leadership ladder. This will likely leave Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA-1) and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA-6) in the battle for the number two position.

Scalise’s move would open the Whip’s position. Chief Deputy Majority Whip Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) would likely run for this open post, but he can expect more than one opponent. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL-11) has already announced his intention to run for Whip. Former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam (R-IL-6) is also a possible candidate.

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