Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Louisiana: McAllister Back in the Game, Landrieu Teetering

In House, Polling, Senate on July 2, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Scandal-tainted Rep. Vance McAllister (R), who announced that he would not run for a second term after he was videotaped kissing a woman other than his wife soon after his election to the House, has done an about-face. The freshman congressman now says he will run for re-election.

McAllister, winning the late 2013 special election to replace resigned Rep. Rodney Alexander (R) with an outsider’s campaign momentum and Willie Robertson’s help, the latter of Duck Dynasty fame (the district’s most famous resident), easily defeated state Sen. Neil Riser (R) in the special run-off election, 60-40 percent, despite the entire Louisiana Republican political establishment supporting the state legislator. After McAllister quickly found himself in personal trouble and stated he would not run in the regular 2014 election, all eyes again turned toward Riser. Now that the senator has decided not to run for Congress again, McAllister has re-entered the political picture.

At least four other Republicans have declared for the seat, but none are particularly strong. Despite his image problems, McAllister will still be a major contender and does have a chance to survive. It remains to be seen who else joins the field of candidates.

As we know, Louisiana’s jungle primary occurs concurrently with the regular general election. This means McAllister and the others won’t face the voters until Nov. 4. Should no candidate receive an absolute majority, the top two will advance to a Dec. 6 run-off election. At this point, a run-off is likely and McAllister figures to advance.

Considering this development and Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL-19) winning the vacant Florida district last week, the current House open-seat count stands at 45.

LA-Senate

A new Public Policy Polling survey (June 26-29; 664 registered Louisiana voters) again shows veteran Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in precarious political position. This latest data again projects that the race is advancing to a December run-off vote. On the ballot test including all probable candidates (the filing deadline is not until Aug. 22), Sen. Landrieu is well below the 50 percent threshold.

The incumbent again tops the field of four candidates, but with only 44 percent support, meaning the chance of requiring a post-election run-off (Dec. 6) is beyond the margin of polling error. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) is second with 27 percent, thus setting up a head-to-head contest between the two. Retired Air Force officer Rob Maness (R), who enjoys strong Tea Party support and features an ad showing him subduing an alligator, has eight percent, while state Rep. Paul Hollis (R) trails with five percent. The fact that the two latter candidates are combining for double-digits suggest that a run-off would be a certainty if the election were today.

In a prospective Landrieu-Cassidy run-off, the two candidates are tied at 47 percent, which is a slight improvement for the incumbent. In the now eight polls published since January, Cassidy leads the senator in six of the survey results. The other two, including this latest PPP release, projects the pair of major party candidates to be tied. The survey giving Congressman Cassidy his biggest lead, 50-44 percent, came from the Magellan Strategies June 5-8 data conducted for the National Mining Association.

Money will not be an object for this race. Sen. Landrieu banked over $7.5 million through the early part of this year, while Rep. Cassidy has out-performed every Senate challenger in obtaining just short of $6.4 million. The financial disclosure reports due July 15 likely will show a major increase in receipts for both candidates, especially now that Sen. Landrieu chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) resignation in February unleashed a chain of events within the legislative body that led to Landrieu obtaining her new position.

The poll contains another interesting aside, again to the incumbent’s disfavor. Public Policy Polling seems to consistently test federal officials and candidates in negative numbers. Here, all four candidates find themselves with upside down public opinion ratios. President Obama also fares poorly, posting a 39:56 percent job approval ratio.

But the interesting numbers concern the Landrieu family. While the senator’s job approval is only 42:52 percent positive to negative, Landrieu’s brother, Mitch, the mayor of New Orleans, scores quite positively. His favorable ratings exceed his negative by a robust 48:30 percent within the same respondent segment. This suggests that Mary Landrieu’s poor rating is confined to her individually, and not the other members of her political family. Aside from her political brother, father Moon Landrieu was a well-known mayor of New Orleans (1970-78) and is now featured in a series of ads with his daughter.

If the other Senate races remain close, it is conceivable that the majority could be decided in a Louisiana run-off election, a month after voters throughout the nation cast their ballots.

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