Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy has created some daylight between himself and the rest of the top candidates in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, according to an independent poll from Southern Media & Opinion Research released Wednesday.
Kennedy, in the poll of 500 likely voters, was the choice of 22 percent, followed by Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat, at 16 percent; Republican 3rd District Congressman Charles Boustany at 14 percent; Democrat Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans attorney, at 12 percent; and Republican 4th District Congressman John Fleming at 9 percent.
"Kennedy isn't a lock, but he's certainly favored to make the runoff," said Bernie Pinsonat of Southern Media. "He opened up a decent spread."
But the second runoff spot remains murky.
"You could throw a blanket over the next four; any one of them could make it," he said. "But some of the other scenarios are fading because of Kennedy's advantage going into the stretch."
Kennedy had been closer to the pack in Southern Media's September poll at 16.9 percent, but Pinsonat said Kennedy followed that survey with an advertising blitz that strengthened his position.
Pinsonat said Kennedy's biggest Republican challengers, Boustany and Fleming, are struggling to gain traction outside of their regional bases — Bosutany in Acadiana and Fleming in northern Louisiana.
Southern Media's new poll also showed the number of undecided voters is shrinking, down to 15 percent compared to more than 26 percent a month ago.
"People are making up their minds," Pinsonat said.
Democrat Josh Pellerin (3.5 percent), Repubilcan Rob Maness (3.4 percent), Republican David Duke (3 percent) and Troy Hebert, who has no party affiliation (1.1 percent) were the only other candidates in the 24-person field to register at 1 percent or more.
All are vying to replace incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who isn't seeking re-election.
Pinsonat said the poll was commissioned by about 30 subscribers — business people and lobbyists — with no input from any candidate.
Approval ratings: Kennedy has the top approval ratings of any statewide official at 65 percent, followed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, at 60 percent, Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry at 50 percent and Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy at 45 percent. President Barack Obama was the only one measured whose negatives in Louisiana, 57 percent, exceeded his positives, 43 percent.
Trump towers in Louisiana: Republican president nominee Donald Trump still has a commanding stronghold in Louisiana at 50 percent compared to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at 35 percent.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1