NEW ORLEANS -- Mitch Landrieu is less than two weeks into his second term as New Orleans mayor, but a new statewide poll indicates he would make a strong candidate for Louisiana's highest office.
Based on a survey of 600 likely voters conducted by Southern Media & Opinion Research, Landrieu, a Democrat, and U.S. Senator David Vitter, R-La., both pull 29 percent of the vote in next year's race for governor.
A second tier of prospective candidates lag behind. John Kennedy got 12 percent, Jay Dardenne 11 percent, John Bel Edwards 6 percent and Scott Angelle 4 percent.
SMOR pollster Bernie Pinsonat said Landrieu would be the last, best hope for the Democrats to regain the governor's mansion.
"He's a good candidate," said Pinsonat. "He has statewide recognition. He has a big base in New Orleans. If the Democrats hope to field a strong candidate for governor, of course Mitch Landrieu is that person."
The same poll shows Vitter leading Landrieu 53 percent to 42 percent in a runoff.
Eyewitness News Political Analyst Clancy DuBos said a lot can still happen between now and the election in October 2015.
"The governor's race is so far off into the future," DuBos said. "The poll is, I guess a starting point, but it presumes that Landrieu even runs. He has already said in the late stages of the mayor's race that he would not run for governor."
Just last week, Landrieu told Eyewitness News, "In politics, you never say never about anything, but my focus has always been and will continue being the mayor of New Orleans"
As for David Vittter's chances, DuBos said, "Vitter is a U.S. Senator, who has run statewide and who is actively campaigning for governor. The fact that he can't crack 30 percent in the raw numbers tells me that he's got some vulnerabilities.
"He may not be doing that well, but if you look at this poll, he's the guy with the money and the room to grow," said Pinsonat.
Neither Landrieu nor Vitter chose to comment for this story.
Dardenne called the race "wide open" and said he's "looking forward to a robust campaign next year."