This space recently conjectured whether a Republican other than Rep.Vance McAllister could make a runoff for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District, and if the entrance of Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway as a Republican into the contest diminished those chances. A new poll gives us some data on which to assess these observations.
Done by the same firm which released the only previous independent and public poll on the race, which had showed McAllister leading the field but with a dismal 27 percent and the only Democrat in it Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo next at 21 percent, revealed the previously highest-placed challenger Republican to McAllister, physician Ralph Abraham, now topped the group at 22 percent. McAllister had slumped to 20 percent and Mayo was down just a point fewer than he to 15 percent. Holloway debuted with 9 percent of the vote, in fifth place, behind businessman Harris Brown at 11 percent, who nearly doubled his previous total. Losing as much as McAllister was the previously fourth-place holder, salesman Zach Dasher, who fell to sixth place at 7 percent.
(There are some methodological quibbles with this poll and its predecessor, such as it fails to rotate answers throughout, meaning there’s a slight bias towards earlier-listed names and away from those nearer the end of the alphabet. But in terms of changes in candidate totals between polls that shouldn’t matter for analysis.)
The pollster hypothesized that Holloway was slicing off votes not from Abraham, Brown, or Dasher, all conservative Republican challengers, but from McAllister in the southern part of the district; only Holloway and former Grant Parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley, in seventh place dropping from 9 to 6 percent, do not come from the Monroe area of the district. He also speculated that the relatively low proportion saying it would vote for Mayo, who is black, in a district where over 32 percent of the registered voters are black non-Republicans, was a reflection of quiescent campaign activity on his part that has some who might otherwise support him instead stating McAllister as their choice.
It’s certainly possible that Holloway has clipped a point or two from McAllister, being as the latter may have served as a default name earlier in the campaign for uninformed respondents and people in the Alexandria area certainly recognize the former’s name. But McAllister probably has lost more points to all candidates become better known, giving those less informed a reason not to have to give out the only name they know. And the biggest beneficiaries probably have been the most diligent campaigner, Abraham, and the candidate now cranking up the most spending, Brown. As these polls were not part of a panel – the same respondents for both – no one knows for sure.
Meaning there probably there is something to the drop for Mayo in terms of his support, as well as others who could be supporting him, going over to McAllister. Mayo’s core voters are more likely to be less informed and to decide at the very end of the campaign (disproportionately right around election day, when they receive literature from intermediaries indicating the “ballot” they should vote), so for now they go with the familiar name – made more so by McAllister’s penchant for being contrary to his party on occasion, much to Democrats’ delight.
However, some of this may be strategic as well among the more informed of presumed Mayo supporters. They may be getting a sense that McAllister’s weakness, and especially the strength of Abraham, makes their preferred runoff of Mayo and McAllister unlikely, where they dream that McAllister’s scandal and double talk make him so anathema that Mayo wins, but they can live with McAllister as the least “evil.” Meanwhile, their last choice of Mayo versus any challenger, which he assuredly loses, has become more likely, so they may be thinking of trying to foment their middle sceanrio, supporting McAllister in the hopes of getting the least of the evils into a runoff with a conservative challenger and that he can hang onto the seat.
Recall that to the political left that Mayo’s presence on the ballot isn’t a serious attempt to win, although it would be an incredible bonus and is possible under the right conditions, or even so much is to get the lesser evil McAllister back in office, which serves only as lagniappe to the real purpose of Mayo’s candidacy: to mobilize those less informed voters to come out and vote for Sen. Mary Landrieu to survive in Washington. The more informed natural Mayo supporters will vote anyway and for Landrieu, so they have the luxury of peeling off to vote strategically to McAllister if they feel it necessary.
If Abraham continues to put daylight between himself and the other challenger Republicans, and particularly if Brown continues to advance as well so that he could overtake McAllister, expect that Mayo will underperform significantly as liberal Democrats try to salvage what they can out of this contest by attempting with their crossing over to vote McAllister into a runoff.