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« Candidates Plan Foreign Travel | Blog Home Page | Leaders Make Midwest Swing »

LA Race Tightens

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana faces a stronger challenge this year than any Democrat seeking re-election. Republicans got one of their top recruiting choices, and that candidate, State Treasurer John Kennedy, has already shown fundraising prowess to rival Landrieu's. Now, a new survey shows, the race is getting close.

The poll, conducted by Southern Media & Opinion Research, a Louisiana-based independent firm, surveyed 600 likely voters from 6/26-28 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Landrieu and Kennedy were tested among a sample made up of 56% Democratic voters, 30% Republican voters and 14% independents and others (Actual registration is 53% Democratic, 25% Republican and 23% independent and other -- numbers were rounded).

General Election Matchup
Landrieu.........46 (-4 from last, 4/9)
Kennedy.........40 (+2)

McCain............52
Obama............,36

While the state was once home to a huge African American population -- 32.3% of the population at large, according to the 2000 Census -- that number has dropped dramatically. Just 25% of survey respondents were African American, according to the survey, a reflection that Hurricane Katrina dramatically reduced the number of black voters in the state.

Those black voters have been a key to Landrieu's two narrow wins. In 2002, Landrieu took 52% of the vote in the December runoff against a Republican she outspent nearly three-to-one. In 1996, Landrieu beat Republican Woody Jenkins (Remember that name?) by just 5,000 votes. This year, Landrieu, whose father was the last white mayor of New Orleans and remains a widely-respected member of the city's political establishment, needs a big African American turnout to keep her seat.

While Barack Obama might boost turnout among some black voters, he is not going to pull Landrieu along on lofty coattails. The poll showed just 43% of voters had a favorable opinion of Obama, while a whopping 53% saw him in an unfavorable light. Kennedy could benefit from a strong showing by McCain; the Arizona Senator's ratings are a healthy 57% favorable to 38% unfavorable, much better than President Bush's 46% favorable to 51% unfavorable.

Landrieu, in the end, will have to win back her seat on her own, though she's still in strong position to do so. 61% of Louisiana voters view her favorably, while just 34% see her unfavorably. The incumbent will need to drive up Kennedy's negatives, though; the same 61% view Kennedy favorably, but only 11% see him unfavorably.

Two other politicians of note, included in the survey, also show strong popularity ratings. That shouldn't be a surprise when it comes to Governor Bobby Jindal, who, seven months into his first term, still hasn't lost the honeymoon feeling with state voters (Though this poll was conducted before a flap over pay raises for the state legislature broke out earlier this week). 59% of voters see Jindal favorably, while 36% see him unfavorably; 57% of voters say he is doing an excellent or good job, while just 38% say he's not so good or poor.

A high favorable rating might be a surprise, though, when it comes to Landrieu's Senate colleague, Republican David Vitter. Vitter admitted his name was on a list of clients who paid for services from the so-called D.C. Madam, Debra Jean Palfrey, who ran an escort service in Washington. Too, Vitter had been hit with allegations of involvement with a prostitute in New Orleans, allegations that he has denied but that the woman has never backed away from.

Given Vitter's recent troubles, one might expect a low favorable rating. Instead, the junior senator is seen positively by 55% of voters in Louisiana, compared with just 38% who view him unfavorably. Expect Democrats to offer a strong challenge to the freshman Senator when his seat comes up in 2010, but with numbers like this, the race is going to have to be very negative for the party to have so much as a shot at the race.