Analysts See Steep Climb for Vitter
Early voting for Louisiana’s Nov. 21 runoff for governor began Saturday, Nov. 7 and continued through Tuesday, Nov. 10. It took a break on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, and will resume Thursday, Nov. 12 to Saturday, Nov. 14.
For Republican pollster John Couvillon, the early voting numbers are not encouraging. Despite the belief by many that turnout would fall in the runoff, exactly the opposite appeared to be true, he said. During early voting for the Oct. 24 primary, 88,184 people voted statewide, but so far in the first three days of early voting for the Nov. 21 election, 119,381 have voted — a 35 percent increase.
Couvillon says the racial composition of early voting this time is more heavily black and Democratic. In October, the racial composition was 72 percent white and 26 percent black, but so far in November, it is 69 percent white and 29 percent black — a shift of six percent!
Moreover, the higher turnout is occurring in 41 parishes, most of which are more urban. The lower turnout is in 23 parishes that are more rural. The urban parishes are more favorable to Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards. These parishes are seeing a huge increase in turnout so far — Caddo, 109 percent; Orleans, 98 percent; Bossier, 89 percent; East Baton Rouge, 80 percent; Ascension, 68 percent; Calcasieu, 66 percent, and St. Tammany, 65 percent. Most are likely to vote heavily Democratic, Couvillon said.
The bottom line, he said, is a turnout for Nov. 21 which is likely to be in the range of 45 to 50 percent, rather than 39 percent.
In the Oct. 24 primary, Republican David Vitter received 23 percent of the vote statewide, compared to 40 percent for Democrat Edwards. Couvillon said that, as a result of the wide disparity, it has been essential for Vitter to very quickly consolidate conservative Republicans and attract white Democrats and independents. In 2014, losing Senate candidate Rob Maness quickly endorsed Republican Bill Cassidy and brought the party together to defeat Mary Landrieu. As a result, Couvillon said, the race was basically over at that time. Vitter has to be able to get the Angelle and Dardenne vote back and change the tone of the campaign.
Couvillon said Vitter’s new apology ad was a good start, but he will have to do more, Couvillon said.
“There’s still a week for voters to be impacted. TV is still the best way for Vitter to go,” he said. “If you are a conservative candidate trying to reassemble the conservative base, the best use of resources is targeted TV and some radio.”
High black turnout in the runoff could be a big plus for Edwards, Couvillon said. “Another advantage for Edwards is the fact that there are 14 or 15 black majority legislative districts with runoffs.
Couvillon said Vitter’s best strategy is not to continue trying to tie John Bel Edwards to Obama but instead to get voters looking at Edwards’ legislative voting record.
Lt. Governor’s Race. Couvillon said the race for Lt. Governor between Democrat Kip Holden and Republican Billy Nungesser is a partisan race. “Nungesser should be the heavy favorite but Holden performed better in the Baton Rouge area, which has 20 percent of the vote, than the typical Democrat. He said he expects Nungesser to win but it is not a slam dunk.
Attorney General. Couvillon said this is one of the most interesting races. The common wisdom is that incumbent Republican Buddy Caldwell would get the black vote over his Republican challenger Jeff Landry, but the endorsement of Landry by a black Democratic candidate complicates matters. “How Democratic voter groups decide to go will decide this race,” he said. “Caldwell has done his legwork to his share of conservative Republicans, and he should get a majority of black voters. Caldwell is more likely to win.”
Couvillon said Vitter has a short fuse to turn things around.