There hasn’t been much good news lately for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Sure, he finally snagged an endorsement from deeply conflicted House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose differences with his party’s standard bearer cover both style and substance. But that big announcement was overshadowed by a damaging document-dump painting the allegedly fraudulent Trump University as a scam designed to separate credulous students from as much money as they could afford, if not more. And Trump’s contention that the American-born federal judge overseeing a lawsuit on the subject is inherently biased due to his Mexican heritage drew rebukes from many of the GOP bigwigs who are backing him.
Will any of this finally stick to a man who has made one outrageous assertion after another, yet who has, until now, seemed to be coated in orange-hued Teflon?
Maybe somewhere. But signs are that it’s unlikely to change the dynamic here in Louisiana.
A new poll released last week by Southern Media & Opinion Research for Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby gives Trump a substantial lead. Sure, it was taken before the latest round of coverage, and also before the U.S. Department of State’s inspector general released a damning report on Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Even so, it suggests that voters in Louisiana are dug in.
If the election were held today, 53 percent would vote for Trump and 39 percent for Clinton, the odds-on favorite to clinch the Democratic nomination, according to the poll of 500 likely voters taken May 19-23. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
One reason to think those numbers could hold is that they closely track recent presidential election results in the state. Louisiana hasn’t gone for a Democrat since the last time Clinton’s husband appeared on a ballot two decades ago, and has since settled into reliably red territory. Trump’s total trails the mark set by the last two GOP nominees, John McCain (59 percent) and Mitt Romney (58 percent). But Clinton’s hovers right around President Barack Obama’s totals of 40 percent versus McCain and 41 percent versus Romney. (For the record, McCain, who is up for re-election for U.S. Senate in Arizona, is backing Trump despite the businessman’s notoriously dismissive quip about McCain’s years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam; Romney has been sharply critical and is staying on the sidelines).
Behind those numbers is a familiar partisan split, with 67 percent of Democrats siding with Clinton and 90 percent of Republicans — along with 57 percent who identify with neither party —– on board with Trump.
The racial divide is equally stark; 71 percent of white voters said they favored Trump, and 86 percent of black voters said they’re in Clinton’s column. This, too, suggests that traditional voting patterns could well hold, no matter what the candidates say or do.
Nor do many Louisiana women appear inclined to stray, despite Trump’s often boorish behavior and Clinton’s historic candidacy. The poll shows Trump leading by a landslide with male voters, 62 percent to 31 percent, but holding his own with female voters, scoring 47 percent to Clinton’s 45 percent.
Yet another signal that the numbers could well hold is that so few respondents said they were still wavering. Although the general election campaign is just beginning to take shape, only 8 percent said they’re undecided or unwilling to back either major party nominee.
Not that they’re particularly happy with their choices. Just over half the voters interviewed, 52 percent, expressed an unfavorable opinion of Trump. But 64 percent said they have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton, including a remarkable 53 percent who view the former secretary of state very unfavorably.
So even though Trump’s unconventional candidacy is expected to put more states in play this fall, don’t expect to see either candidate spend much time or money Louisiana. Like so many of the nation’s big-name politicians, Louisiana voters seem inclined to follow the party line — and just block out the rest.