U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s support is slipping in the contest for Louisiana governor, according to the results of a poll commissioned by a group of New Orleans and Baton Rouge businessmen.
Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle is benefiting from the shift and under one scenario has taken the lead. But when adjusted for historical voting patterns, the numbers show that state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the Democratic Party candidate, is in first place.
Either way, the support for Vitter, who has held a significant lead since the race began coming together earlier this year, is sliding, according to the poll.
Vitter supporters aren’t buying it. They’ve taken aim online at the pollster, Verne Kennedy, and point to alternative surveys that show the Metairie Republican is still firmly in first place.
With 11 weeks to go before the Oct. 24 primary, Angelle said the Kennedy poll results, while interesting, won’t change his plans.
“There’s a lot of golf left,” he said. “America has a love affair with the underdog, and all I know to do is work.”
Vitter’s favorability has fallen since May in a series of monthly surveys run by Kennedy, of MRI Research Insight in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
In the most recent survey, 25 percent of the 600 residents questioned from July 27 to July 31 chose Angelle, a Breaux Bridge Republican, when asked who they would vote for or who they were leaning toward voting for. Vitter received 22 percent. Edwards, of Amite, polled 20 percent, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, came in at 12 percent. “Undecideds” were at 21 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
Those percentages reflect the straight-up answers to direct questions. If the numbers are calculated for how voters in various demographics actually cast ballots, then the results change.
“My understanding of the poll is that I am in first place, with Vitter and Angelle tied in second place,” Edwards said Friday.
Kennedy’s poll showed when African-American responses are redistributed along historical voting patterns, a common technique used by pollsters, then Edwards’ support comes in at 34 percent, while Angelle and Vitter each have 21 percent. Dardenne and the “undecideds” are at 12 percent.
“Our internal polling paints a totally different picture than the poll released today,” Dardenne said Friday. “I’m comfortable and confident with where we are in the race, the resources we have on hand and the financial contributions that are forthcoming, which, by the way, include no borrowed money. We talk about Louisiana’s needs, not the process of our campaign.”
Kennedy said usually when a candidate’s numbers fall off, they go to undecided. But this time, he saw a shift from Vitter to Angelle.
From the June survey to the one in late July, Vitter lost support among seniors, evangelical Christians and hard-core Republicans, Kennedy said. He suspects that the shift coincided with Angelle’s television campaign, featuring the candidate hunting and with his family. It’s usually considered a fairly risky strategy to buy the expensive commercials before Labor Day, but Kennedy says the attempt appeared to successfully introduce Angelle in a reassuring setting.
Luke Bolar, Vitter’s campaign spokesman, wrote Friday in an email: “Two independent polls released at the same time show Sen. Vitter up by 20 over his Republican opponents. This poll is reminiscent of when the same pollster said Vitter’s 2010 primary race was 46-34. He was more than 40 points off.”
Kyle Ruckert, Vitter’s campaign manager, emailed supporters Thursday about the two other polls, noting that one showed Vitter at 31 percent — up 20 percentage points over Angelle and Dardenne. The other showed a slight drop in support but still registered Vitter 10 points ahead of the other two Republicans.
Kennedy was hired by a group of businessmen. He did not provide the full poll, which would include the wording and order of questions along with “crosstabs,” which would show how people of different demographics answered the specific questions.
The poll was partially funded by John Georges, a New Orleans businessman who co-owns The Advocate and ran for governor in 2007.
Kennedy included Georges’ name in the poll, asking only if the person was aware of his name and had an opinion about him.
“Currently, I have no plans to run for public office but I would never rule that out,” Georges wrote in an email. “I have included my name recognition and favorability in every poll since owning The Advocate to gauge public opinion on the things I am doing. I cannot see a scenario that I would run but I am flattered. I believe the field of candidates will not change.”
Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCNB. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .