UPDATED: Vitter Gains On Edwards In Triumph Campaigns Poll

At least, he’s gaining compared to the three other post-primary polls that had come out (in those, Edwards was ahead 52-40 in the lightly-regarded Democrat poll by Anzalone Liszt, 52-32 in the JMC Analytics poll for NBC33-TV and 54-38 in the Market Research Insight poll, which is Verne Kennedy’s poll).

In this survey, released this evening by Jackson, Mississippi-based Triumph Campaigns, Edwards leads Vitter 49-41. An eight point spread, which is considerably closer than the three polls mentioned above.

Triumph is a Republican pollster – they’ve signed up to handle polling for Rep. Charles Boustany either in his re-election campaign or his Senate run should David Vitter win – so there will be people pooh-poohing these results, but we tend to think they’re reflective of what’s really going on with the race at this point, for three main reasons.

First, the sample. This poll has 1,818 likely voters as its sample. That’s a larger sample than the others with those outsize margins. It’s been a big topic of conversation in the national media following the Kentucky governor’s race ending in Matt Bevin’s surprise victory Tuesday that polling, which is driving so much political reporting right now, is almost universally awful lately – for lots of reasons. There’s the problem of land lines and cell phones, and getting a decent call list when so few people have land lines anymore, there’s the problem of actually getting people to answer the phone to give responses to poll questions from a stranger or a computer and there’s the problem of people just lying to pollsters – none of which were as bad as they are now.

Our theory is the only way to combat this is with the biggest poll samples you can find, and getting really good at figuring out what an electorate will look like. Whether Triumph has done that we’ll discuss in an update when we have the full file with the crosstabs, but they’re using a giant sample here. JMC Analytics only had 600 in their sample; Anzalone Liszt had 700.

Second, the fundamentals of the race simply don’t support those outlandish deficits for Vitter. You don’t need to take our word for that; here’s what the left-wing Daily Kos said about it in an e-mail newsletter earlier this week…

We have less than three weeks to go before the Nov. 21 runoff, and a pair of polls show Republican David Vitter losing to Democrat John Bel Edwards by double-digits. JMC Analytics, on behalf of the Baton Rouge station WVLA, gives Edwards an insane 52-32 lead. To make things even better for Edwards, the 16 percent of undecideds say they’re leaning towards Edwards by a 54-35 margin.

JMC also surveys the lieutenant governor’s race and gives Republican Billy Nungesser a surprisingly tiny 40-39 edge over Democrat Kip Holden. While Holden has some name recognition as the head of East Baton Rouge Parish, he has little money and hasn’t been running a particularly active campaign. It’s possible this is a sign that the entire sample is too Democratic but even so, Edwards’ lead is so huge that it should hold up.

On Tuesday, Market Research Insight gave Edwards a 54-38 edge. MRI did not identify a client, but it’s worth noting that they were the only pollster to correctly show Scott Angelle running close to Vitter during the October jungle primary. A post-primary Anzalone Liszt Grove for the Democratic-backed group Gumbo PAC gave Edwards a 52-40 lead: If there are polls out there showing Vitter within striking distance or even winning, they haven’t been released yet. Still, after Tuesday’s polling debacle in Kentucky, Democrats should be careful about relying on just a small group of pollsters to give them an accurate picture of this contest.

Louisiana is a dark red state, and we expected Edwards to fall behind after the GOP began attacking him for the first time. So far, these polls say that’s just not happening. Team Red is going to keep trying, and Louisiana airwaves will be saturated over the next three weeks with spots portraying Edwards as a crony for the unpopular Obama administration. We’ll see if Edwards can stand the heat once the furnace is set to full blast, but Democrats should be very happy to see that he’s held his ground so far.

That’s as positive as Daily Kos has ever been about the race, and it’s still pretty cautious. Here’s how they sounded last week after the Anzalone poll came out…

Whenever you see a poll like this, though, you have to step back and ask whether it’s too good to be true. The answer, as ever, is that it might be. Anzalone produced one of the most unfortunate polls in recent Louisiana electoral history, when they claimed that Vitter had a mere 3-point lead with just weeks to go in his 2010 re-election. (As we noted above, Vitter prevailed by 19.) And Republican attack ads aimed at Edwards have yet to reach the fever pitch we know they will. It won’t be easy to survive that onslaught.

But it does seem that Louisiana voters are still much more willing to consider pulling the lever for a Democrat (especially a fairly conservative one like Edwards) in a gubernatorial election rather than in a federal race, when they know they’d only be sending in reinforcements for Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer. As a result, we’re moving our rating on this race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. That’s a cautious move, especially since Edwards is leading in the polls and Vitter hasn’t produced any contrary data, but Democrats still have a challenging path to victory.

However, if further polling still shows Edwards ahead as we get closer to the Nov. 21 runoff, then it might be necessary for us to consider labeling this contest a tossup. That would be a remarkable place to find ourselves, but again, this is Louisiana—the land where the unexpected is always possible.

The point being that as much as they want to believe that Edwards has a lead in the polls which can’t be overcome, they just can’t quite get there. A poll with the race in single digits, which is still a relatively good result for Edwards given the history, is far more in line with even Daily Kos’ interpretation of what’s possible for a Dem.

Third, Kentucky. That’s a Southern state with a much more competitive Democrat Party than Louisiana has; the outgoing incumbent there is, after all, a Democrat. And Bevin was a far less proven Republican candidate than Vitter is; Vitter has never lost an election and won his last race by 19 points, while prior to Tuesday Bevin had never won a race other than the GOP primary he won earlier this year.

And yet Bevin won the race 53-44, with a libertarian third-party candidate pulling three percent mostly from Bevin. That, on a night where Republican candidates and conservative initiatives mostly wiped the floor with Democrat candidates and liberal initiatives. The 61-39 thrashing of the “bathroom bill” in Democrat-leaning Houston and the 62-31 annihilation of far-left San Francisco’s sanctuary-city sheriff Ross Mirkarimi of Kate Steinle murder fame were examples of how the Hard Left is starting a full electoral retreat at present – to such an extent that The Atlantic actually had a piece making the case that Democrats are now losing the culture wars, something social conservatives would regard as rather surprising news.

With that as the electoral background to this race nationally, even with some of the headwinds Vitter is running into it simply doesn’t make sense that he would be uncompetitive.

In an update to the post we’ll have the crosstabs and some more analysis. But we do have a few other interesting items to share from it.

 

– Respondents were asked, “If all you knew about the two candidates is that one is a Republican and the other is a Democrat, for whom would you vote?”  45% chose the Republican candidate, 40% chose the Democrat, and 15% were undecided on the question.

– Also, the poll asked the question about endorsements, which plays as significant given the news this morning about Jay Dardenne turning his coat and backing Edwards. When the news broke yesterday that Dardenne was going to back Edwards, a contact in Vitter’s camp had a peculiar reaction – he said he thought that was actually a good thing for his side since he didn’t think Dardenne had enough power to move his primary votes to Edwards and the development would irritate and motivate enough Republicans as a backlash to actually bring momentum to Vitter.

We weren’t completely impressed by that at the time, but watching social media today it really isn’t all that off the mark, if it’s not correct. And then comes Triumph’s results…

On a Jay Dardenne endorsement, 19% said it would make them more likely to support the endorsed candidate while 24% answered less likely, and 57% said it would make no difference.

On a Scott Angelle endorsement, 19% said it would make them more likely to support the endorsed candidate while 21% answered less likely, and 60% said it would make no difference.

So before Dardenne even made the endorsement, the poll found it was a negative-five for whoever got it. Then he goes and crosses the aisle for a Democrat in a deeply-red state. There is no reason to think that minus-five would have gotten better, particularly when all you hear is how the whole thing is motivated by Dardenne wanting the Commissioner of Administration, or perhaps Louisiana Economic Development Secretary, jobs.

– And in some down-ballot races the poll had some numbers as well…

Republican Billy Nungesser leads Democrat Kip Holden 49% to 38% with 13% undecided in the race for Lt. Governor.

Republican Jeff Landry leads Republican Buddy Caldwell 42% to 39% with 20% undecided in the race for Attorney General.

JMC Analytics had the Lt. Governor race at a one-point margin, with Nungesser holding a 40-39 lead on Holden. That didn’t look right at all. This is probably quite a bit closer to the real state of the race given that 67 percent of the primary electorate voted for Republican candidates and Elbert Guillory, who had 11 percent of the vote, has already endorsed Nungesser.

And as for the AG’s race, Landry led Caldwell 38-34 in the JMC Analytics poll. So these numbers indicate about the same thing. Landry probably holds a slight edge, and any incumbent who can’t get to 40 in the polls is in a lot of trouble, but that race is likely going to be close on Nov. 21.

UPDATE: We just got the graphical presentation and the crosstabs from the poll.

There isn’t a whole lot to look at in them which stands out beyond the above, but we did see three things.

First, this sample is not friendly to David Vitter. It breaks down as 51 percent registered Democrat, 33 percent Republican and 16 percent independent. The current numbers as of Nov. 2 from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office are 45.9 D, 28.1 R and 25.9 I. The independents don’t particularly vote very often, and when they do they usually go Republican, which accounts for some of the difference between the registration stats and the registration ID in the poll, but this sample shows a little more of those independents breaking Democrat than Republican. That would make this electorate different than it’s been for a long time in Louisiana; we’d have to research it, but the 2012 electorate in Louisiana – a presidential cycle which usually turns Democrats out in droves compares to midyear and statewide cycles – didn’t have 51 percent registered Democrats making it up.

And second, Edwards is catching 37 percent of the white vote. Mary Landrieu caught less than 25 percent last year. That 37 percent isn’t going to hold up on Election Day; not gonna happen. The sample had 71 percent of the respondents as white and 27 percent as black; that’s probably about what it will be. So if Edwards got 25 percent of the white vote instead of 37, he’s down nine points from this showing and he loses the race.

But Vitter does have a problem with a gender gap. He’s beating Edwards 47.9-43.8 with male voters, which is less than he’s likely to do by the time this is over, but with females he’s getting drilled by a 53.4-35.0. He has to find a way to close that, and putting his wife on TV to testify for him hasn’t quite done it so far.

Here’s a suggestion: since Edwards is the single most vociferous defender of all things Obamacare in the Louisiana legislature, and since Obamacare is being universally recognized as a disaster, and since the Louisiana Health Cooperative was one of the first of the 12 Obamacare co-ops to go belly up, depositing tens of thousands of people onto the uninsured rolls, the way to go is to find a sympathetic female to tell the story of getting blown out of her health insurance when Obamacare took effect, signing up with LHC and then losing her plan because LHC went under, and now not having a clue what to do for health insurance because to get it somewhere else under Obamacare will cost three or four times what it cost before that stupid law was passed and oh-by-the-way the federal government wants to fine her several thousand dollars for not having insurance she can’t afford, with the answer being to go to the government and get either subsidies or Medicaid, and THIS is what John Bel Edwards is for?

Matt Bevin won in Kentucky because his campaign and the RGA played up Obamacare like there was no tomorrow, and it resonated. It could especially resonate in Louisiana with women, who polls show are considerably more concerned about health insurance and making sure their families are covered than men are.

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