A joint effort between the website The Hayride and Remington Research found Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy leading the field with 27 percent, with north Louisiana’s Public Service Commissioner Democrat Foster Campbell a distant 11 points behind, followed closely by Republican Rep. Charles Boustany and lawyer and former statewide candidate Democrat Caroline Fayard. Northwest Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, 2014 Senate candidate Rob Maness, and white supremacist and 1990 Senate candidate David Duke, all Republicans, lag around each other in the middle single digits.
The race’s future jumps out from these numbers: it’s Kennedy’s to lose. As things stand, only those in double-digit territory as of now have a chance to join him in the runoff, and the dynamics show they have little chance of defeating him. The poll’s only heads-up match with him and Campbell showed him over 50 percent with Campbell garnering barely half of the remaining electorate. As for the others, another indicator shows they would have great difficulty in eating into Kennedy’s current support: he pulls in higher support than any of them across all of Republicans, Democrats, and independents.
Early in the contest, it appeared that Fleming had the only shot at defeating Kennedy. As Kennedy ran for the spot 12 years ago as a liberal Democrat, among the other candidates only Fleming consistently has articulated a solid conservative message and also could point to a record of service in applying those principles that could provide enough contrasting incentive for conservatives who might back Kennedy to abandon him, giving Fleming the edge.
While the poll interestingly did not inquire about respondents’ ideological identifications, reasonable deduction shows not only has Fleming failed to enable that condition, but that he has suffered leakage to Boustany as well. While not as conservative as Fleming, Boustany pulls down a fifth of GOP respondents, and even as this is well behind Kennedy’s two-fifths, he’s ahead of Fleming’s one-eighth. Unless Fleming can double his Republican base vote, mostly by cutting Boustany’s in half, he has no chance.
Although initially Maness was thought to compete for the same base as Fleming, the data show they have turned out significantly different. The plurality of his support comes from independents, unsurprisingly as he ran as an insurgent Republican in 2014. That actually could have come in higher, except for events beginning in his run last time.
At the Republican Leadership Conference meeting in New Orleans in 2014 – a gathering of conservative activists – current Republican presidential nominee businessman Donald Trump publicly chastised Maness for staying in the contest won subsequently by Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, saying that Maness’ presence needlessly diverted resources from defeating former incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu. Since then, Maness has kept his distance from Trump, now considered the most successful outsider/insurgent candidate in history who could mobilize voters for other similar candidates in down-ballot races, even as he tries to position himself as the same kind of outsider.
By contrast, Fleming’s early strong support for Trump probably has scared off more votes than attracted them. Some conservatives unnerved by Trump’s lack of ideologically consistency if not outright liberal views on some matters have pledged not to vote for him, and with so many other conservative choices in Louisiana’s Senate contest they see guilt by association with Fleming, thereby leading them to prefer Kennedy or Boustany.
So even if Maness exited the race – he cannot legally withdraw at this time but could announce that he saw himself out of it and for voters not to consider him – not all of that vote would head Fleming’s way as some conservatives behind Maness may view Fleming suspiciously for such vociferous support of Trump and others would not see him as sufficiently outside of the system. And he still would need a noticeable shift towards him from conservatives supporting Kennedy and Boustany.
Nor does the presence of Duke really matter. The poll noted that the minority of support for Duke comes from Republicans – both Democrats and independents back him at higher levels. Were Duke suddenly and inexplicably to lose interest in gaining attention and making a living off a campaign leading him to declare himself out of the contest, few of those votes would come Fleming’s way.
Thus, Fleming continues to evaporate as the counterweight to Kennedy, now with little hope of bucking the current dynamics to make the runoff. This gives Kennedy unimpeded access to victory, unless he gets caught with a live boy or dead girl.