As much as some in the media and the political class persist in their belief that David Vitter is vulnerable even to a Republican primary challenger, another poll was released today showing Senator David Vitter with a another double digit lead (51-41%) over his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Charlie Melancon. Several things about this poll are worth noting (Poll results are here, and a previous article we did regarding poll analysis is here):
(1) 403 “likely voters” were surveyed over the weekend. “Likely voters” is an important term here, because we’re not merely talking about names in a phone book or warm bodies on a voter roll – we’re talking about Louisiana voters who, in the professional opinion of the pollster, will vote in this November’s election;
(2) This poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), which is a Democratic polling firm recently selected to do the polling for the Daily Kos, which is a liberal blog. For Vitter to have a 10 point lead in a PPP poll is in itself newsworthy, and it bears mentioning that the last time PPP polled this race, they used a looser standard of “registered voters”, and that sample showed a 46-37 Vitter lead;
(3) If you want to assume that had PPP used “likely” and not registered voters in the June survey, the numbers would likely have been more pro Vitter – in other words, this race has been remarkably consistent in terms of overall candidate preference;
(4) In one of the lead paragraphs, the pollster stated that the Louisiana electorate is “much more conservative and Republican…compared to two months ago…” In fact, even though this “much more conservative sample” stated that they preferred McCain over Obama 57-37%, the actual results in Louisiana were 59-40%, which immediately suggests that the poll sample was 2% less conservative than those who actually voted in 2008. Furthermore, we had established here that the 2008 results in Louisiana were skewed towards the Democrats by about 2%, which means we’re actually talking about at least a 4% underestimation of conservatives in the poll sample;
(5) Charlie Melancon certainly isn’t helped by Democrats at the top of the ticket: President Obama’s approval rating is 35% (61% disapprove), With white voters, 77% disapprove. Senator Landrieu doesn’t fare much better: only 41% approve of her performance, while 53% disapprove;
(6) While the abysmal ratings for President Obama and Senator Landrieu aren’t giving the Melancon campaign much of a lift, Melancon’s own favorable ratings are 26% favorable/48% unfavorable (with Independents, it’s 31% favorable/41% unfavorable, and 28% of Democrats give him an unfavorable rating). This despite the fact that 10% more voters think that Charlie Melancon is “better representative of Christian values” than David Vitter. In other words, voters aren’t interested in the one weapon in his holster that Melancon insists on using over and over again;
(7) While the “values debate” won’t net Charlie Melancon many votes, it also doesn’t help that he has little room to grow electorally. He already has near unanimous support (89%, compared to Vitter’s 9%) from blacks, while he trails Vitter 24-67% with whites;
(8) Playing the “women card” similarly won’t help Rep. Melancon: Vitter leads 55-37% among men, with a narrower 49-43% lead with women voters. In other words, those women who are voting based on their disapproval of Senator Vitter’s conduct are likely in the Melancon camp anyway;
(9) Finally, for those who had hoped that supporting Chet Traylor would guarantee a Republican victory, the poll also notes that Charlie Melancon leads Traylor 40-39% in a hypothetical matchup;
(UPDATED 8/26 PM) With the primaries’ being less than three days away, the only remaining question will be the strength of party support for Melancon and Vitter in their respective primaries. We believe that Senator Vitter should end up with about 75-80% support from Republicans (Incidentaly, PPP also released a poll today of 358 likely primary voters showing Vitter with a commanding 81% of the Republican vote in Saturday’s primary). We also believe the Democratic vote for Melancon will be less, for two reasons: (1) 17% of Democrats in the poll support Vitter’s re-election, (2) in a recent poll, “undecided” actually is running ahead of Melancon 52-43% with registered Democratic primary voters – not the poll numbers you want with the election just days away.
John is a political consultant and blogger with JMC Enterprises with expertise in poll sample development and analysis, development of targeted voter files for phone canvassing or mail outs, campaign strategy and demographic consulting, among other things. See his site at WinWithJMC.com for more information.