Polls Show John Bel Edwards Is Louisiana’s Most Vulnerable Gubernatorial Candidate

Last week several candidates for statewide office opened their cheeks wide and got their statewide campaign temperatures taken, bringing signs of health for some but worrying signs of sickness for others.

The information came courtesy of a pair of polls, one taken by a firm that works with Gov. Bobby Jindal, the other from a firm hired by Treas. John Kennedy, who has not stated any election intention for this or next year, that by virtue of which enabled his name to appear in both. The former, among other things, asked about potential gubernatorial candidates this year, while the latter gauged opinion about hypothetical gubernatorial, attorney general, and 2016 senatorial contests.

In the former, undeclared but possible Democrat candidate New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu led the way with 28 percent, Republican Sen. David Vitter received 27 percent, Republicans Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne trailed at 11 percent each, while Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle mustered only 6 percent and dragging the rear was Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards at 4 percent. The latter survey’s gubernatorial choices led to Vitter having 24 percent, Edwards 20 percent, Kennedy 13 percent, Dardenne 10 percent, and Angelle 2 percent.

Vitter’s campaign health checked in as the most robust. He held decisive leads over any GOP contender, and the dynamics attendant to the Democrats reinforces his favorite status while making Edwards appears the sickest. The fact that putting in the name of Landrieu took away almost all Edwards’ support, yet he ran second when the only Democrat mentioned, shows both that he truly is the B-side candidatefor Democrats who they would abandon with a more substantial candidate in the race (which basically only could be Landrieu at this point) and that the choices that Democrats offer won’t be nearly quality enough to win, but loyalty to them by their voters will be enough to knock out all other GOP contestants except Vitter, leaving Vitter in the enviable position of essentially a guaranteed win should these dynamics hold.

Some of Landrieu’s boost and Edwards’ fall comes from name recognition at this time, which a campaign can change, and the same is true for Vitter’s numbers (and especially Angelle’s, with his regional base at this time). But even taking that into account, the magnitudes involved show no reason not to think that Vitter is the clear clubhouse leader.

From Kennedy’s perspective, he got better news regarding his flirtations with other offices. For attorney general, he led the pack at 23 percent, with a needed hypothetical Democrat for survey purposes in the form of Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy at 18 percent, incumbent Republican Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell at 17 percent, and former U.S. Rep Jeff Landry at 10 percent. Regarding the 2016 Senate race, assuming Vitter were to become governor, at 18 percent he ran ahead of other Republicans Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming, with 13 and 7 percent, respectively, but well behind Landrieu at 39 percent. Only the other Republicans at this time have expressed interest in taking over from Vitter.

Again, name recognition in this latter instance must play some role in the numbers, with the other two Republicans having only regional bases at this time, but Kennedy certainly is competitive, although it should be a little worrying to him that Landrieu, who has made no mention of a desire for Senate service and must be hesitant after his sister got shellacked in her reelection bid to it last year, could open such a wide lead on him, perhaps echoing the defeat Mary Landrieu put on Kennedy for her seat in 2008. This may indicate that the other two Republicans have greater potential if and when they become better known statewide.

Kennedy’s attorney general number undoubtedly should brighten his day. Impressively, not only does he lead the incumbent but also another populist conservative in Landry. Yet again, Landry’s base may be regional, but he has been running actively for the office for nearly a year so Kennedy without campaigning still trumps that. However, should no quality Democrat get into the race, the majority of their votes probably would end up in Caldwell’s column, making chances of victory against him in a runoff a toss-up. Still, Kennedy seems to be countering Landry’s strength with more of his own, which may make him regarded as the best available by conservatives to defeat Caldwell.

Of course, there’s so far to go, but at nine months out these data set parameters suggesting who all has the more realistic chances of winning and can affect campaign and donation decisions in the coming months.

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