The poll had Jindal at 39 percent, retired U.S. Sen. John Breaux 17 percent; Gov. Kathleen Blanco 16 percent, U.S. Sen. David Vitter 10 percent and former Attorney General Richard Ieyoub 2 percent. Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard, PSC Commissioner Foster Campbell and state Sen. Walter Boasso each had 1 percent. But the most interesting statistics were the attendant “don’t know” figures – 12 percent for the “primary,” 9 percent for the “general” election. Similarly discouraging for Democrats, another poll privately commissioned by Democrat Party strongman Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom put Jindal in front of Breaux heads-up 48-42.
They may try in the near future, but there simply is no way for Democrats to put a positive spin on these numbers, probably beyond their worst nightmares 18 months out from the election. Consider:
In a hypothetical general election runoff, with just 10 percent undecided at this point, Jindal already just shy of half, and quasi-incumbent Breaux well below half, it will be very difficult for Breaux to turn that around.
If these discouraging numbers prompt Breaux to stay with his cushy post-Senate lobbying gig, the news gets worse for Democrats. Another older poll had Jindal comfortably ahead of Blanco 53-31 head-to-head, numbers ringing a death knell to a sitting governor when a challenger polls over 50 percent and her 22 points back.
None of this should have been a surprise. Blanco has looked incompetent throughout the aftermath of the disaster and Jindal much the opposite. Further, his close loss in the 2003 race should have sent a warning to all future opponents. Simply, someone as young as he, with absolutely no electoral experience whatsoever, almost never comes within an eyelash of winning the state’s top office (not even Huey Long, who already had got elected to the then-Public Service Commission, came as close at a similar age in 1924).
Jindal epitomizes the “new” Louisiana politician – a true conservative reformer. Why he defeats Breaux is he provides such a stunning contrast to the “old” style of Breaux – a closet liberal who became increasingly so, very comfortable with the good-old-boy system.
Jindal beats Blanco on competence; he beats Breaux on reformism and ideology. Anything can happen in 18 months, but on the balance, he poses a serious problem for Louisiana Democrats.