BAYHAM: Georges Speculation, Verne Kennedy Poll Stirs Up Gubernatorial Conversation

Louisiana US Senator David Vitter has consistently led the preliminaries for governor, even before he had announced for the office.

Having won two statewide elections, been highly involved in the election of Republican legislators in the 2007 and 2011 state cycles and crisscrossed the state at a breakneck pace with townhall meetings, this should not be surprising, especially as his announced opponents enjoy a much lower “earned” media profile.

Looking to escape the basement in practically all polling conducted in the race, Republican public service commissioner Scott Angelle made a significant media buy as qualifying for governor is only a few weeks away.

And if the numbers in a recent poll are to be believed, Angelle has received staggering dividends from his tv ads, teleporting from the back of the pack to ahead of Vitter.

Others have charged that the Verne Kennedy poll, which was paid for in part by John Georges, does not so much reflect an impressive feat of political pole vaulting but a campaign illusion.

Georges himself got into the thick of the political conversation when he announced that he was stepping down as publisher of The Advocate, leading many observers to speculate that the politically ambitious businessman is up to something.

Team Vitter did not take kindly to publicized polling data that makes it appear that their man had lost his consistent double-digit lead over his fellow Republican candidates, releasing contrasting numbers showing Vitter still ahead of Dardenne and Angelle, and going after the messenger, or in this case the pollster.

Vitter’s camp released a collection of “Verne Kennedy’s Greatest Misses”, including well-off the mark polling data that Kennedy produced on Vitter’s US Senate Republican primary in 2010 that showed a relatively competitive race for the GOP nomination when in reality the incumbent emerged victorious with near-unanimous Republican support.

If Democrats were predicating their hopes for unseating Vitter by exploiting a fissure within the conservative vote bloc, they could have saved a lot of money after the Metairie Republican rolled up an impressive 88%. Verne Kennedy had Vitter pegged at 46% and ex-State Supreme Court justice Chet Traylor at 34%, finishing at 7%.

As Bob Uecker facetiously exclaimed in the movie Major League, “Just a bit outside.”

As the dynamics of the gubernatorial race have not changed (there have been no televised debates, breaking stories by the press or television advertisements that have redefined the race),   surveys in the near future not conducted by Verne Kennedy will show that Vitter maintains the inside track in the divided GOP field.

Georges got politicos talking after announcing that he plans to walk away from a position of considerable influence over Louisiana politics as publisher of a newspaper with a territory that includes three of the state’s four largest metropolitan areas.

Georges has danced around the matter of a potential candidacy this fall and his indirect promotion of Angelle’s gubernatorial run through the Verne Kennedy poll indicates that a run for the state’s top job is unlikely.

A campaign for US Senator has also been hypothesized though Georges would be a more formidable candidate for an open seat than a straight up contest against a politically bruised Vitter.

The next logical office would be lieutenant governor, something rejected by one political observer as being “number two” simply doesn’t square with Georges’s “alpha dog” persona.

However, being 0-2 in two bids for major public office (governor in 2007, mayor of New Orleans in 2010) can bring the political ambitions of even the most self-confident back down to earth and a win for a top state post, particularly one sans incumbent, could have allure.

Furthermore, lieutenant governor is an office that would not tie Georges down personally as the job has limited governing (don’t die before the next in line) and administrative (tourism and parks) responsibilities.

Is an Angelle-Georges tandem in the cards?

Assuming The Advocate owner dipped into his own personal funds to promote an Angelle-Georges “ticket”, the duo could compete with Vitter’s campaign and Super PAC warchests and give the Acadiana candidate a beachhead he is lacking in the New Orleans area and a means by which to go after the officially blessed Democratic candidate’s black vote that Edwards must consolidate to make the runoff.

That would be a major game changer, more so than questionable poll numbers from a source who has been spectacularly wrong in the elections for mayor, US Senate and 2nd Congressional District in 2010 and governor in 2007.

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