Rumble In The Jungle: Republicans Could Win Louisiana Outright… With A Tweak

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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A new, in-depth analysis of the closely-watched Louisiana Senate race shows that Republicans can cleanly defeat Sen. Mary Landrieu on Nov. 4 — saving millions of political dollars and putting the GOP one step closer to a Senate majority — but they need one thing to happen first: Third-place Republican candidate Rob Maness needs to bow out.

In a study exclusively obtained by The Daily Caller, data and analytics firm 0ptimus conducted an opinion-read of 5,711 likely voters to find out if a Republican dropping out of the Louisiana “jungle primary” would make a difference on Nov. 4; if the controversy over Landrieu’s residency is important to Louisiana voters; and what the GOP can do to win the race. (RELATED: Mary Landrieu And The Big Oopsie)

The strange situation is the product of Louisiana’s unusual general election process, during which any number of candidates can run on Nov. 4, and if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers compete in a Dec. 6 run-off. (RELATED: Maness Looks To Shake Up Louisiana Senate Race)

The Real Clear Politics polling average on Monday showed Landrieu ahead of Republican front-runner Rep. Bill Cassidy, 38 to 35.3, with Republican Rob Maness at 8 percent. 0ptimus’s polling of likely voters showed Maness playing even more of a spoiler, with 17.7 percent, and Cassidy and Landrieu at 35.9 and 37.8 percent, respectively, with 8.6 percent thoroughly undecided.

Slide 5, 0ptimus report.

Slide 5, 0ptimus report.

But this report goes further, asking “if Republican Rob Maness dropped out of the Senate race, would you be willing to support Republican Bill Cassidy?”

Slide10, 0ptimus report.

Slide10, 0ptimus report.

In that scenario, Cassidy’s share of the vote rises to between 46.2 and 49. 2 percent (17.5 percent say they are unsure, though it is fairly likely most of the unsure former Maness voters would support the Republican). “Without Maness, this race is nearly over,” the report reads. “In a worst-case scenario, Cassidy would only have to win 44 percent of undecideds to win [outright] in November, which the rest of this [report] will show is quite likely.”

Slide 11, 0ptimus report.

Slide 11, 0ptimus report.

That’s because unlike in, say, Massachusetts, Democrat Landrieu is going to be waging a very difficult fight to win over Louisiana’s undecided likely voters– a group that leans conservative.

Sixty percent of unsure voters, for example, consider Landrieu a resident of Washington, D.C., rather than Louisiana. And 34 percent of that number have a major issue with that.

Slide 14, 0ptimus report.

Slide 14, 0ptimus report.

Thirty-one percent of undecideds think that health care is the most important issue in the upcoming election, with 77 percent of those thinking “the country would be better off if Obamacare had never been passed.”

Slide 18, 0ptimus report.

Slide 18, 0ptimus report.

The same holds true for undecideds focused on other issues, with classic Republican initiatives like securing the border, lowering the sales tax and getting government out of the economy resonating well. (RELATED: Louisiana Senator Helps LSU Students Do Keg Stand)

“This study is unique because of the high sample-size, which allowed us to zoom-in on important segments, 0ptimus co-founder Brian Stobie told TheDC. “For example, we could zoom in on unsure voters, then zoom in on those unsure voters who thought health care was the most important issue facing our elected officials, and then gauge that population’s reaction to Obamacare, all while maintaining high sample sizes– and with it, confidence in the results.”

In an earlier interview with The Times-Picayune, Maness said “The split-the-vote tactic is a scare tactic,” but conceded that “if [Landrieu] was statistically looking at being over 50 percent and that was part of the race, there’d be a different discussion happening. But that’s just not the facts, the facts don’t bear that out, and they’ve never borne that out and we’ve heard that argument for well over a year now.”

“There’s been no phone calls or e-mails or any of that” from national center-right groups pressuring him to get out of the race either, Maness also said.

But if there might be a real change were he to drop out, that could very likely change. The Wall Street Journal reports that, anticipating a brutal fight, center-right organizations have geared up and stowed away money for Louisiana after Nov. 4. Among them, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has $3.4 million ready to spend, Ken Griffin’s Ending Spending organization has $2.5 million ready to roll, the Koch-affiliated Freedom Partners has saved $1.5 million for the final bout, and the political side of the NRA is preparing to spend over $1 million.

And the right isn’t the only side preparing for battle. Democrats are currently tied up dashing around the country putting out as many fires as they can, but the right can be sure the left will bring all its might to bear on the Bayou State after Nov. 4– especially  if that race decides the control of the Senate.

This reality, as understood before the 0ptimus poll, had already caused hesitation on the conservative right, with most of the groups that were active in the Republican Mississippi primary battle standing on the sidelines, and some of those who have backed Maness taking care to show flexibility. Sal Russo, whose Tea Party Express endorsed Maness, said, “As long as somebody who votes with [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid all the time is defeated, that will be a victory,” USA Today reports.

Millions of center-right dollars that could be spent otherwise — as well as an increased chance of losing the seat in a Dec. 6 election and polls indicating that a two-candidate Nov. 4 race could make all the difference — might just be enough to alter national Republican calculations.

“The bad news is Maness is in the basement and will not win this race, which is troubling because it looks like his presence in the race is going to take away a Republican win in November, giving the national Democratic apparatus the opportunity to focus on a single race if this goes to run-off,” Stobie told TheDC. “That’s not to say Republicans can’t win a run-off, only that they could put this away in November instead of risking a high-stakes single-state showdown.”

“The good news is that the majority of unsure voters hold Republican views on the issues they claim are the most important to them,” Stobie continued. “That’s true now, and will likely also hold true for the run-off.”

Polling ran from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.

Full Disclosure: When 0ptimus co-founder Brian Stobie was at a different company in 2012, I assisted that company as a contractor collecting advertising data in Massachusetts.

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