Dennis Woltering and Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – An exclusive statewide poll commissioned by WWL-TV finds Jay Dardenne leading challenger Billy Nungesser by 13 points in the bitterly-contested race for lieutenant governor.
Dardenne, the incumbent and former state lawmaker, garnered 40 percent to 27 percent for Nungesser, the Plaquemines Parish president. 33 percent of those surveyed were undecided.
WWL-TV pollster Dr. Ron Faucheux of the Washington, D.C.-based Clarus Research Group said higher name recognition helps Dardenne.
“He was just elected to lieutenant governor last year and he does have higher statewide recognition than Billy Nungesser has right now,” said Faucheux. “That is an advantage.”
The telephone survey of 602 scientifically-selected likely voters was conducted Oct. 5-7.
It reveals Dardenne leading Nungesser by 18 percent among Republicans. Both men are Republicans. Dardenne leads the race by 13 percent among Democrats and leads by a narrower 3 percent among independents. Dardenne won Tea Party supporters by 13 percent.
“One of the things Nungesser will be trying to do is to improve his position among Tea Party voters,” Faucheux said.
By region, Dardenne has a big advantage in the northern/central part of the state and the Baton Rouge area, which is his hometown and political base. Dardenne leads Nungesser 48 percent to 18 percent in those areas.
Nungesser leads by six points in the metro New Orleans/north shore area (38 to 31 percent). Dardenne is ahead in the Acadiana/southwest region of the state (36 to 30 percent).
But with 34 percent undecided in the southwest portion of the state, Faucheux says the area is a clear battleground.
“It's an area that has a relatively high undecided vote, and it's an opportunity to close the gap for Nungesser,” Faucheux said.
Channel 4 political analyst and Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos agreed that each candidate needs to expand beyond their geographic base.
“Billy Nungesser is from the New Orleans area and he’s been a fixture on the news here in the metro area, but when you get outside of his home base, Jay Dardenne is clearly the better known candidate. In those areas, he is leading by a substantial margin,” DuBos said.
“This poll shows the race is not nearly as close as the campaigning and attack ads would have you believe,” said DuBos.
“Nungesser is spending a lot more money than Dardenne, and he’s attacking more, but this poll shows that he’s got some ground to make up,” DuBos said. “I think Nungesser’s own polling probably reflects something like this because typically it’s the guy who’s behind who attacks and attacks more frequently and intensely and that’s what we’re seeing in this race.”
When included in a segment of the survey examining job approval ratings of statewide elected officials, Dardenne has a 41 percent approval rating and a 20 percent disapproval.
The Secretary of State's race is another contest pitting two Republicans against each other - incumbent Tom Schedler, a former state lawmaker, versus Jim Tucker, the outgoing House Speaker.
“This race is really yet to be fought and yet to be won,” Faucheux said.
Tucker leads Schedler 25 percent to 20 percent in the WWL-TV survey, but the undecided vote is significant. 55 percent of those surveyed said they don't know who they would vote for.
“That means anything could happen in this race in the last week or two,” Faucheux said.
The poll finds no strong regional factors.
“Most voters in the state don't know these candidates,” Faucheux said.
In the metro New Orleans area and the north shore, Tucker leads Schedler 28 percent to 18 percent, with 54 percent undecided.
In southwest Louisiana, Schedler polls better, 23 percent to Tucker’s 20 percent, with 57 percent undecided.
In north Louisiana and the Baton Rouge area, Tucker leads 27 percent to Schedler’s 19 percent. 54 percent of the voters in that region are undecided.
Overall, Faucheux believes Tucker is polling better because he is better known statewide, as House Speaker.
Tucker is unfamiliar to 65 percent of those surveyed. Schedler is unfamiliar to 77 percent in the survey.
Faucheux said Tucker’s relative strength among men, African-Americans and Tea Party supporters could also be helping his overall standing.
Faucheux said it's unclear where Democratic voters and African-American voters will go in this race, but the poll shows this contest is still either candidate's to win.
Tucker led Schedler by 8 points among Democrats and by 5 points among Republicans. They tied among independents. Tucker posted a 9-point lead among Tea Party supporters.
“In a campaign like this, whichever candidate closes the strongest in the last week of the election is going to have the best chance to win,” Faucheux said.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
Coming up Wednesday on Eyewitness News at 6, see the results of the poll in the governor's race, and job approval ratings for incumbent Gov. Bobby Jindal.