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No Sitting Duck 

President George Bush may be coming to Louisiana this week to help state Treasurer John Kennedy raise money to run against U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, but the latest independent statewide survey shows Landrieu with a comfortable lead over her born-again Republican challenger. Moreover, the same poll shows Bush faring not much better than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama among Louisiana voters.

Those are the results of the latest statewide survey by Southern Media and Opinion Research (SMOR), headquartered in Baton Rouge. The SMOR survey sampled 600 registered voters between March 26 and April 9. Although the results are two weeks old, this far out from the fall elections they are still statistically valid. Here's what the survey showed:

Asked if their impressions of various high-profile political figures were favorable or unfavorable, voters split almost down the middle on Bush " 49 percent favorable to 47.5 percent unfavorable. Bush's 'very favorable" number was only 22.3 percent, whereas his 'very unfavorable" (referred to as 'hard negatives" by pollsters) was a huge 34.9 percent. By comparison, Hillary Clinton's numbers were 45 percent favorable and 51.4 percent unfavorable " statistically indistinguishable from Bush's numbers in light of the poll's plus-or-minus 4 percent margin of error. Similarly, Obama's favorable ranking was 42.5 percent, compared to an unfavorable rating of 51.2 percent. Obama triggered the largest number of 'undecided/won't say" responses, 6.3 percent.

No doubt the president will help Kennedy raise money, but don't look for him to appear in any talking head TV ads for the treasurer, who ran for an open U.S. Senate seat (against David Vitter) as a liberal Democrat in 2004.

Speaking of Kennedy, almost half the voters surveyed (44.8 percent) still don't know much about him. Slightly more than 19 percent reported a 'very favorable" impression of him, with 28.4 percent offering a 'somewhat favorable" impression, for a total favorable rating of 47.6 percent. The survey's best news for Kennedy is that his unfavorable rating was quite low " a combined 7.6 percent. That means he has lots of room to grow, but it also means he'll need lots of money to make his case against Landrieu.

A 12-year incumbent, Landrieu appears to have recovered from a post-Katrina drop in her ratings. The SMOR poll had her with an overall 70 percent favorable rating, including a 30.6 percent 'very favorable" mark. Her negatives were correspondingly low " a combined 25 percent " with only 14 percent 'hard negative." Only Gov. Bobby Jindal scored higher in the poll, with an overall favorable rating of 77.1 percent.

Soon after Kennedy announced his candidacy, conservative bloggers and the GOP spin machine crowed about alleged poll results showing Kennedy ahead of Landrieu. The SMOR poll gives the lie to those surveys. In the SMOR poll, Landrieu leads Kennedy comfortably, at least for now, 50 percent to 38.4 percent. The remaining respondents either were undecided or refused to state a preference.

The SMOR head-to-head results are encouraging but fairly atypical for Landrieu, who always seems to wind up in cliffhanger elections.

Many continue to identify Landrieu as the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate this election cycle. To be sure, she's a favorite target of the GOP. However, she has garnered a significant number of local Republican endorsements, including several from high-profile GOP officials on the Northshore. For someone whose opponents cast her as a sitting duck only months ago, Landrieu appears to be sitting pretty these days.

Then again, the election is still more than six months away. Stay tuned.

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