Public Policy Polling, the Democrat firm known for such hackery as including George Zimmerman as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, asking respondents whether “conservative media want white people to think Barack Obama hates them” and offering Louisiana Republicans a choice between George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the person most responsible for the response to Katrina, just released a poll on the governor’s race that we can guarantee the state’s media will make a big deal out of.
The poll says that David Vitter can’t beat John Bel Edwards. It says Edwards is up on Vitter in a prospective runoff by a 50-38 margin. In the primary, Edwards leads Vitter 28-27, with Scott Angelle at 15 percent and Jay Dardenne at 14.
Not just that, it also says that neither Angelle nor Dardenne can get above 42 against Edwards, who pulls 40 percent against Angelle and Dardenne but 50 percent against Vitter.
All three GOP campaigns are laughing at the idea there isn’t a Republican candidate in the race who can lead outside the margin of error against a Democrat state legislator from Amite with no money and a tiny media presence to date.
You can see the poll here, but this is what you need to know about it: it’s not an independent poll.
Gumbo PAC paid for the poll. Gumbo PAC is the trial lawyer-funded Democrat PAC running TV and radio ads and putting up billboards in an attempt to beat Vitter. It’s run by Trey Ourso, who was Charlie Melancon’s campaign manager for the 2010 Senate race.
One of the things Ourso did over and over in that race was to publish polling the Melancon campaign commissioned from Anzalone Research, its pollster. And Anzalone’s polls had numbers that were consistently wildly off the mark from the other polling in that race. Anzalone would show Melancon within a few points of Vitter almost all the way up to Election Day, when Vitter demolished him by a 57-38 margin.
Ourso isn’t using Anzalone anymore. PPP is seen as more credible than Anzalone, at least right now. It’s hard to see why – here was PPP’s writeup of the Bill Cassidy-Mary Landrieu race on Nov. 1 of last year…
In Louisiana it looks like Mary Landrieu will finish first in Tuesday’s election. She’s polling at 43% to 35% for Bill Cassidy, 15% for Rob Maness, and just 1% for ‘someone else.’ We find that a head to head between Landrieu and Cassidy would be pretty close at this point, with Cassidy ahead just 48/47. Whether a runoff election would really be that close depends on whether Landrieu can get Democratic leaning voters, especially African Americans and young people, to come back out and vote again in December.
There’s been little movement in this race over the last 6 weeks. Landrieu led Cassidy 42/34 in late September. This is yet another contest where neither candidate is well liked. Landrieu has a 45/50 approval rating, but Cassidy also has a 36/44 favorability rating.
Three days later Landrieu managed a 42-41 number over Cassidy, and the head to head PPP said would be “pretty close” ended up a 56-44 Cassidy blowout. It isn’t like PPP has demonstrated any particular record of having a clue about elections in Louisiana.
In any event, whether it’s Anzalone giving Ourso a happy poll or PPP it’s the same practice.
If an actual independent poll shows none of the GOP candidates leading Edwards beyond the margin of error, we’ll stop laughing at PPP. Until then?
An Edwards victory would be nothing short of miraculous: Louisiana booted three-term Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu 56-44 just last year, and Edwards hasn’t been raising nearly as much money as any of his GOP foes. But as with any surprise poll, there are a lot of caveats. We haven’t seen many runoff polls here in a long time, so there’s not much to compare to. In fact, you have to go all the back to June to find such a survey, when Republican pollster MarblePort gave Vitter a 50-38 advantage on Edwards. Gumbo PAC markets itself as a non-partisan anti-Vitter group, but it’s run by a former state Democratic Party executive director, so they have an incentive to show that Team Blue is still alive and kicking on the bayou.
One other problem for Edwards is that his positive image with voters is due to the fact that no one’s bothered to attack him yet. Right now, Vitter is blasting his two Republican rivals and they’ve hit back, but the GOP has left Edwards alone. Team Red’s contenders believe that they’ll have a better shot in a runoff against Edwards than against a fellow Republican, so it’s in their collective interest to leave Edwards be for now. But in a November runoff, we can count on the GOP spending big to link Edwards to Obama, who has never been popular in the Pelican State.
One other thing worth looking at is the contrast between the jungle primary numbers and the hypothetical runoffs. In the primary, the three Republicans take a combined 56 percent of the vote while Edwards only reaches 28. But in the head-to-head runoff matchups, Edwards manages to takes at least 40 percent against bother Angelle and Dardenne, and, of course, 50 against Vitter. Why would so many voters express support for Republicans in the primary but go soft in the runoff? There’s no good explanation for that. Put another way, if Vitter makes it to the second round, Edwards will need Angelle and Dardenne backers to switch to him instead of staying with the GOP. That’ll be extremely difficult.
If Democrats are going to score a win in November, they’ll need Edwards to face a damaged Republican. The last few weeks have been dominated by questions about Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal, so Team Blue may very well get their wish. But Edwards is also going to need to prove that he can do what even the once-formidable Landrieu couldn’t do and hold on after the GOP tries to turn the contest into a referendum on national politics. PPP’s survey offers a ray of hope, but even if it’s accurate now, a lot will change by the runoff.