The latest independent statewide voter survey holds good and bad news for both candidates in the governor's race. It shows, as expected, a very tight race that either Kathleen Blanco or Bobby Jindal could win. Turnout will be a major factor, as will each candidate's ability to "get to the middle."
The survey was taken Oct. 17-20 by Southern Media and Opinion Research (SMOR) for a group of television stations, including WDSU in New Orleans. Six hundred registered voters were interviewed, and the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. Here's what it showed:
Blanco, 42.7 percent
Jindal, 40.5 percent
Undecided, 16.8 percent.
Interestingly, the poll was taken immediately after Gov. Mike Foster weighed in with his comment about Blanco's husband becoming the most powerful man in the state if she gets elected -- and Blanco's response that Foster's remark was insulting to women. It may not have captured all the backlash, but no doubt the results reflect much of it.
But the poll's overall numbers aren't even half the story. The real results lie in the "cross-tabs" -- tables that break down each candidate's levels of support among various demographic groups. When those numbers are analyzed, it's clear, for example, that Jindal has no room to grow among conservatives; they've already decided to support him. On the other hand, the largest blocs of "undecided" voters are Democratic, white and female.
That would seem to augur well for Blanco, but it also raises the question: why aren't they with her already?
The good news for Jindal is that he clobbers Blanco among white voters by a margin of 53.4 percent to 29.5 percent. Another 17.1 percent are undecided. Of the whites who expressed a preference for either candidate, more than 64 percent are for Jindal.
Among African-American voters, Blanco wins by a margin of 75.2 percent to 10.7 percent. Only 14 percent were undecided. If Jindal gets more than 7 percent of the black vote on Election Day, it would be historic in a governor's race. He would be foolish to assume that the 10.7 percent he received in this poll will hold up on Nov. 15.
But black voters constitute only 30 percent of the state's registered voters, and they turned out in substantially smaller proportions than did whites in the Oct. 4 primary. The turnout differential between whites and blacks was at least 13 percentage points in the primary, and it cost Attorney General Richard Ieyoub a spot in the runoff. If the differential is more than 10 percentage points on Nov. 15, it could well cost Blanco the election.
No doubt Blanco and Democratic leaders will work hard to bolster African-American voter turnout next month, but she would be wise to try to gain a larger share of the "white middle" in the meantime. More than 17 percent of white voters are still undecided, and most of them are Democrats; only 8 percent of the state's registered Republicans are undecided. That means Jindal has to "get to the middle" as well -- and get Democrats to cross party lines for him.
More than in most elections, this race will be decided by moderates.
So Long, Dude
It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Appeals Court Chief Judge William "Dude" Byrnes III last week. He died of complications from a stroke at the age of 61.
To say that Dude was unique among Louisiana's political characters would be an understatement. While fulfilling his duties as an appellate judge, he also moonlighted as director of The Abstract Book Store and Project Last Hope, 1302 Magazine St. In its own way, the Abstract served as a court of last resort over the years for scores of men struggling with addiction and psychiatric problems.
Dude literally gave up all his worldly pursuits in furtherance of a vow he made years ago to help others deal with addictions and mental illness. He wore only hand-me-down suits given to him by fellow judges and friends, and he devoted all his energies to helping those on whom society had given up. I used to tease him by calling him "Father Teresa." He would shake his head and say, "Oh, no. I'm no saint."
I would beg to differ.
So long, Dude.