Last week, Louisiana Democratic Senate hopeful Charlie Melancon released an internal polling memo that showed that he had erased Republican David Vitter’s double digit lead in their upcoming electoral showdown.
Internal data for that poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research and obtained by TPMDC paints a picture of an electorate that still favors the GOP, but which increasingly mistrusts the incumbent Vitter in the wake of a recent scandal, and is now considering Melancon as a viable alternative.
Of 800 likely voters surveyed, 37 percent said they’re likely to vote Democratic compared to 42 percent likely to vote Republican, and 20 percent undecided.
Over the last few months, according to the data, voters have become significantly more aware of Melancon, though he still remains unknown by about a quarter of the electorate. In February, his favorables were 39 percent, unfavorables were 20 percent, with 41 percent unable to rate him one way or another. Now his favorables are 47 percent, unfavorables 27 percent, and he’s unknown to only 26 percent of likely voters. As a congressman from southern Louisiana, Melancon’s district has been hit harder than any other by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and he’s become a leading spokesman in Louisiana for both holding BP accountable and opposing the White House’s moratorium on offshore drilling.
But as Melancon makes the climb toward statewide recognition, and as his approval ratings improve, Vitter continues to fall out of favor with voters. A full 50 percent say they probably or definitely would prefer him to be ousted this November, up from 45 percent a year ago. One-third say they absolutely want him out, compared to 23 percent in May, 2009. In February of this year, a similar Anzalone poll found Melancon trailing Vitter by 10 points, 48-38. This one finds them in a dead heat, 44 percent for Vitter, 43 percent for Melancon.
The poll did include a battery of negative questions, which were asked after the questions about the November election and favorability, eliminating them as a potential “push” on the earlier results. According to the poll, 51 percent of those surveyed have “heard, read, or seen anything recently about a top aide to David Vitter who resigned after it became public that he was arrested two years ago for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.”
Vitter recently drew a much-publicized primary challenge from former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor, but his campaign still boasts a significant lead in that race.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.