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12.10.11

Polling shows campaigns to feature even more attacking


New polling information about the only two substantive contests for statewide office up for grabs this fall shows a little clarity emerging on one but the other as murky as ever, and points to campaigning up until the Oct. 22 election becoming even less tied to issues and more to personality.

A poll conducted for WWL-TV in New Orleans for lieutenant governor showed the current occupant Jay Dardenne leading his opponent Plaquemines Parish Pres. Billy Nungesser 40-27 percent, and current House Speaker Jim Tucker up on incumbent Sec. of State Tom Schedler for that office. The margin of error computed for these races, both involving only Republicans, is four percent.

Ordinarily, that would tell us that while the Secretary of State matchup is close enough not to declare a definite leader, Dardenne’s lead is significant.
However, the large number of undecided voters in each tempers the latter’s conclusion, and only adds to the confusion of figuring out the former. Also worth noting is the staleness of these numbers, now five days old where the large number of undecided voters means results grow dated quickly. And, without internal numbers being reported, as in both races candidates seem to show more regionalized support than usual, we must trust the pollster that sampling followed demographic trends in terms of residences.

But, assuming that these are not validity issues, the most meaningful datum from it reported was that among voters indicating a definitive preference, Dardenne leads about 60-40. This many undecided voters this late in the campaign allows for two interpretations of the impact of that, creating good news or bad news for Nungesser: either this gives hope to Nungesser because at this stage an undecided voter who has not broken for the incumbent is likely to go for the challenger, or, especially given the low profile of the office, they won’t vote at all and thus Nungesser has a difficult climb to win.

All things equal, the latter is more plausible so the only chance Nungesser has to garner the challenger advantage with late undecided voters is to find a way to activate them, and concerning an office that has so little policy impact, doing it on the basis of issues won’t do it and, besides, the easiest way to get a voter into the booth is to scare him. With deep pockets and an organization loaned out by Sen. David Vitter to carry the water, look for Nungesser’s campaign to launch blistering attacks on Dardenne’s candidate image, which already may have begun.

Matters entirely remain dynamic in the other contest. Here, roll-off is even more likely but warchests are smaller, making it tougher to activate undecided voters and made even murkier to guess their intentions in that Schedler, who assumed the office without election, at best being conceptualized by them as a quasi-incumbent. Still, the advantage may head Tucker’s way for the same reason Dardenne’s lead is less secure than it seems, Vitter’s intervention here in Tucker’s favor. A strong organization certainly helps in getting voters out in this kind of low profile, low activation race and, again, given the issueless nature of the office in question means that activation will center on personalities.

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