My late friend and mentor Joe Walker always cautioned that polls don't predict the outcome of an election, particularly when they are taken months before Election Day. "They're a snapshot in time," Walker used to say. "They can give an accurate picture of voters' attitudes and opinions at a given point in time — but it's all subject to change."
Bearing in mind Walker's admonition, several recent polls reveal a lot about Louisiana's high-profile politicos and their political ambitions. Here's an overview, in chronological order:
• U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, despite months of withering attack ads by a Koch brothers Super-PAC, leads her three announced GOP challengers and has more support than all of them combined. The open primary is Nov. 4.
• U.S. Sen. David Vitter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu are virtually tied atop the field of potential gubernatorial candidates. Landrieu has not announced his candidacy; Vitter has.
• Gov. Bobby Jindal's 2016 presidential prospects remain dim. He trails every possible Republican candidate nationally and in Iowa, the first caucus state.
Here's a closer look.
The Senate race — A statewide survey taken March 24-27 by the Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies shows Mary Landrieu leading with 39 percent of the vote. She is followed by her main GOP rival, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge at 26 percent; and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness of Madisonville and state Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington at 3 percent each.
Landrieu's 39 percent is hardly something for a three-term incumbent to cheer about, but coming after months of seemingly nonstop attack ads by Americans for Prosperity, a Super-PAC funded largely by the Koch brothers, it probably reflects her absolute bottom level of support. Her recent ascension to the chair of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee and her relative silence to attacks suggest she has room to grow.
Landrieu also can take comfort knowing her 39 percent share is still more than the combined 31 percent of her three announced GOP opponents. Remember, this survey was taken by a Republican polling outfit. It will be interesting to see if Landrieu improves after she starts consistently shooting back at her attackers.
The bad news for Landrieu is the same survey's result showing her with an overall negative job rating among Louisiana voters: 42 percent approve of her performance; 53 percent disapprove.
The governor's race — This one isn't until October 2015, but already the candidates are posturing and preening. The early favorite is Vitter, who has been positioning himself to run (and raising lots of money) for at least a year. Interestingly, Mitch Landrieu runs nearly even with Vitter — and the mayor hasn't even hinted at making the race. It shows that there's a lot of anti-Vitter sentiment out there.
The same March 24-27 Magellan survey shows Vitter at 28 percent, Landrieu at 26 percent; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne at 13 percent; Treasurer John Kennedy at 9 percent; and state Rep. John Bel Edwards at 5 percent. Landrieu and Edwards are Democrats; the others are Republicans. It's noteworthy that Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand recently endorsed Dardenne, which should give him some bounce in southeast Louisiana.
While this survey is good news for Mitch Landrieu, Ron Faucheux of Clarus Research notes that the potential GOP candidates collectively garner 51 percent of the vote, whereas Landrieu and Edwards get a combined 31 percent.
Meanwhile, the survey shows Jindal still has an overall negative job rating: 47 percent positive; 49 percent negative.
Jindal for president? — A March 26-30 survey by another Republican firm, Reason-Rupe, shows Jindal with just 1 percent among GOP voters nationwide. He trails eight other more notable GOP presidential aspirants, and the one right above him in this poll has five times Jindal's support: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 5 percent.
Yet another GOP polling firm, Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, surveyed Iowa Republicans on March 30 and found Jindal again at the back of the back with only 2 percent — trailing 10 others.
Jindal calls his new think tank "America Next," but GOP voters seem to be saying, "Jindal never."