Landrieu v. Cassidy: A Quick Take on the New Public Policy Polling Numbers

February 11, 2014

I thought I’d offer a quick take on new numbers from Public Policy Polling. The survey was taken February 6-9 and includes 635 Louisiana voters. It is worth keeping in mind that Public Policy Polling is a Democratic polling firm. You can look at the full set of results here:

  • The new numbers show Senator Mary Landrieu leading Representative Bill Cassidy by a slim 45-44 margin. That is a one-point lead and a reelect number below 50 percent, both are troubling but entirely expected.  This is a midterm year, typically a bad year for the president’s party, and Senator Landrieu is running in an increasingly red state. If I were working for the Landrieu campaign what would trouble me more is not the tightening of the election but the intrusion of national politics into a race she wants to make about Louisiana. The more local the race becomes, the better she will do.  
  • Not all the news is good for Republicans. When asked to rate Representative Cassidy, 50 percent of Louisiana voters still don’t know who he is while only 25 percent rate him favorably. This means a healthy percentage of the electorate is “hypothetically” voting for someone other than Mary Landrieu. They just don’t know who. By the end of this election, Bill Cassidy will be better defined, but it is not clear who will do the defining and whether the definition will work in his favor. 
  • As further evidence, consider that in head-to-head match-ups, Paul Hollis and Rob Maness each get 42 percent of the vote. Take this as the floor for Republican support in the election. Bill Cassidy is only marginally above the floor (and is within the margin of error).  
  • In a multiple candidate ballot that also includes Paul Hollis and Rob Maness (as well as Landrieu and Cassidy), Cassidy receives 25 percent of the vote while Paul Hollis receives 8 percent and Rob Maness receives 3 percent. A quarter of voters, 25 percent, say they are unsure or don’t know. These “don’t know” voter could go to any of the potential candidates or they could just stay home. Either way, they’ll decide the election.  
  •  The best number in the survey is the Phil Robertson number. In a head-to-head match-up, Duck Dynasty’s Robertson leads Landrieu by a 46-42 margin. Louisiana political observers may be scratching their heads over that one, surprised that Robertson isn’t leading by even more. Despite his lead in the head-to-head, he might have trouble making the run-off. He only gets 13 percent when all the candidates are in the race.  

Even Newer Polling Numbers for the 2014 Louisiana Senate Race

August 20, 2013

A second set of polling numbers were released today on the Louisiana Senate race. These numbers come from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, and are markedly different than the numbers released yesterday by OnMessage Inc, a Republican firm. According to OnMessage, the race stands at 45-41 in favor of Senator Landrieu. According to Public Policy Polling, Landrieu leads by a 50-40 margin.

So what explains the difference? Quite honestly, it is difficult to say without being able to dig deeper into their methodologies, but I would offer several possibilities: 

  1. Each poll says it represents “Louisiana voters,” but it is not exactly clear how this is defined. Typically, we might see the key word “registered” or “likely” as a modifier. If these are likely voters, we should see bigger differences in polling, particularly this early in an election season. If the respective polling organizations are estimating voter turnout based on very different assumptions. Notably, these assumptions may be very defensible more than a year out from election day, but may also suffer from partisan-based optimism.  
  2.  Outside of the Baton Rouge area, people are not likely to know much about Representative Bill Cassidy, so preferences aren’t very well formed yet. Nearly half (49%) of voters in the PPP poll didn’t know if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Representative Cassidy. And, in a four-candidate race with Mary Landrieu, Bill Cassidy, Rob Maness, and Elbert Guillory, a quarter voters (25%) said they didn’t know who they would vote for. Under that scenario, Senator Landrieu  gets 47% of the vote while Representative Cassidy gets only 20%. When it is just Landrieu v. Cassidy the undecideds drop to 10%, and margin moves to 50-40. Right now, the numbers reflect whether voters are going to vote for or against Senator Mary Landrieu. They are less revealing about what they mean for Bill Cassidy, other than that he needs to greatly improve his name recognition.  


New Louisiana Poll Blog – Cassidy v. Landrieu and Campaign Finance Fundamentals

July 9, 2013

Jordan Blum reports the latest campaign finance numbers for Louisiana’s 2014 U.S. Senate race. The numbers reinforce much of what we already know. 

  1. This will likely be competitive race where both candidates have ample resources to communicate with voters.  Money does not, as is commonly believed, buy elections; but candidates without money lose. Perhaps stated differently, you can’t win an election if you can’t reach enough voters. Both Senator Landrieu and Representative Cassidy should easily surpass this threshold. 
  2. The fundraising advantage generally resides with the incumbent and this race is no exception. Senator Landrieu raised $1.67 million in the last quarter bringing her grand total to $4.86 million. Representative Cassidy, for his part, brought in $1.1 million increasing his total to $3.2 million. 
  3. If incumbents are advantaged in raising money, challengers are generally advantaged in spending. That is, they get more bang for each dollar spent. The reason is fairly simple. Senator Landrieu already enjoys high name recognition and Louisiana’s most engaged and knowledgeable voters have fairly deeply rooted views about her performance in office. Her spending will subsequently be focused on securing her base and reaching out to the all-important independent and cross-over voters. She won’t be changing a lot of minds but doesn’t need to. She just not to hold on to her 2008 supporters. The task is harder for Representative Cassidy. He needs (1) to increase his name recognition in the areas outside of the 6th congressional district; (2) to  develop a positive personal story about who he is as a candidate; and (3) to explain why Louisiana needs to replace Senator Landrieu. The first task – increasing name recognition – is the easiest.  Money easily buys name recognition.  The last task is the trickiest, particularly given Senator’s Landrieu’s relatively influence in the Senate. 
  4. The “known unknown” at this point is just how much the respective political parties and outside groups will put into the race independent of the candidates. Given that majority control of the U.S. Senate may hang in the balance, this election  should attract significant outside funding and the added uncertainty of campaign messages outside of the control of either campaign.  


My Quick Takes: Voting Rights, Gubernatorial Vetoes, and Louisiana Senate 2014

June 26, 2013

Voting Rights: A number of eye-catching headlines yesterday proclaimed that the Supreme Court had gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Don’t believe the hype.

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court overturned Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Under the provisions of Section 4, certain jurisdictions – mostly in the south – had to get federal government approval for any changes in voting procedures (including voter identification requirements, redistricting, etc). The provisions prohibiting voter discrimination, articulated in Section 2, remain fully in force and are unaffected. The decision is not a statement about whether or not discrimination exists in voting practices – Chief Justice Roberts admitted they do –  but whether a formula developed in 1965 should still apply in 2013. The Supreme Court left open the possibility for Congress to develop a new formula for identifying jurisdictions with questionable voting practices or disparate outcomes in registration or voter turnout.

Personally, I found little to argue with in the decision. Concerns that states will “backslide” to 1964 by implementing discriminatory practices are real enough but those practices can be addressed directly by Congress specifically rewriting Section 4 in light of the Supreme Court’s decision or through litigation via Section 2.

Gubernatorial VetoesStephanie Grace had a nice column in The Advocate yesterday on Governor Jindal’s aggressive use of the veto. It is a reminder that even a weakened governor (especially in Louisiana) remains powerful. The use of the veto, however, is also a sign of weakness. Powerful governors don’t have to exercise their veto power, they get what they want without it.

The unanswered question, I think, is what is Governor Jindal’s strategic endgame. Will the exercise of the veto make legislators more cooperative in the future? Or does it create resentments that further strain executive-legislative relations? Did Governor Jindal pick the “right fights” to advance his strategic and policy-related interests? Or was is a show of strength by a playground bully who decided to put on his big boy pants to show legislators he is still relevant?

2014 Senate Race: I have tended to dismiss the speculation surrounding the possibility of Governor Bobby Jindal running for the Senate in 2014 against incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu. With his term ending in 2015, Governor Jindal is perfectly situated for a 2016 presidential run. If he decides not to run and a Republican wins in 2016, his next opportunity for presidential bid might be in 2024. Jindal is young enough to think long-term, but the timing now makes sense – and, in politics, timing is everything. John Maginnis’ column yesterday, however, has me rethinking, partly because Maginnis is the source (and I am guessing he is not just guessing) and partly because Jinda’s next step is not clear. He has yet to position himself beyond a second (or third) tier of potential 2016 Republican nominees. If not a presidential run in 2016, then what?

Still, I am not convinced it is a good idea. First, Republicans successfully cleared the field for Bill Cassidy. While Cassidy might be willing step aside, what happens if he doesn’t?  I don’t think Cassidy is a strong a candidate as Jindal, but he also won’t attract the intensity of opposition. Second, I might give Governor Jindal a slight advantage over Senator Landrieu, but that isn’t a “gimme.”  How devastating would a loss be to his political aspirations?

Having said all that, Jindal v. Landrieu could attract the national audience (and visibility) Governor Jindal craves. It has to be tempting.