Republicans U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany and State Treasurer John N. Kennedy are neck and neck in the race for the U.S. Senate with two weeks left to go, while Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has pulled ahead of his main Democratic rival, two different independent polls released Wednesday indicate.
Kennedy is ahead of Boustany by 8 points in the survey from Southern Media and Opinion Research of Baton Rouge and paid for by a group of Baton Rouge-area businessmen and professionals.
Boustany is behind Kennedy by a point in a separate poll commissioned by a group of south Louisiana businessmen and conducted by Market Research Insight based in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
But given the margins of error in both polls, the two are in near statistical dead heat. But then the two Democrats and another Republican also are close still.
"You can throw a blanket over the trailing four, but I think Kennedy is slightly ahead," said Bernie Pinsonat, of Southern Media & Opinion Research. "Having said that, I can't say who is going to make the run-off. This is a very, very close election."
The election is Nov. 8. Early voting is underway and runs through Tuesday.
A Dec. 10 runoff will take place if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.
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These latest polls — few have been conducted in the Senate race — appear to confirm that the match-up is centering around the top five candidates of nearly two dozen people aiming for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
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When asked who they would vote for today, Boustany received 16 percent of those polled — up from 12 percent in September — and Kennedy scored 17 percent — down a point since last month’s survey, according Market Research Insight. The poll has a 4 percentage point margin of error, meaning either of those numbers could go up or down by that amount.
MRI interviewed 600 likely voters from Oct. 17-19 on both cellphones and landlines.
The new poll from Southern Media and Opinion Research shows Kennedy leading the U.S. Senate race in Louisiana with 22 percent of those surveyed saying they plan to vote for him. Boustany polled at 14 percent in the Southern Media survey. The margin of error is 4.4 percentage points.
The SMOR poll was conducted on behalf of the firm’s "private subscribers" and surveyed 500 likely voters Wednesday through Friday last week.
On the Democratic side, Campbell is at 16 percent in the SMOR survey while New Orleans attorney Caroline Fayard came in at 12 percent of those surveyed.
The MRI poll showed Fayard had climbed from 11 percent in September to 12 percent in October. But Campbell jumped 4 points from 10 percent to 14 percent over the same month.
Verne Kennedy, the pollster who handled the MRI survey, said Campbell is showing more support than Fayard in both white and black communities.
Campbell was favored by 10 percent of the white voters — ranked third highest behind Kennedy and Boustany — and supported by 24 percent of African-American voters, ahead of Fayard and all the other candidates, the MRI numbers indicate.
Campbell runs first in Shreveport, according to the MRI numbers. Boustany leads in Lafayette and Lake Charles. Kennedy is ahead in other parts of the state, including the New Orleans area, which has 34 percent of all Louisiana voters.
The third major Republican in the race, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, dropped 3 percent since a poll Market Research took in September, and he is now at 7 percent of the vote.
Pollster Verne Kennedy said Fleming lost voters “probably due to unfavorable publicity on someone close to his campaign offering another candidate money to get out of the race.” (Fleming’s campaign and the alleged operative both told The Advocate that those allegations, raised by Rob Maness, another GOP candidate, were false.)
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The Southern Media poll put Fleming’s support at 9 percent of those surveyed.