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New Poll Shows Some Movement 

A whopping 71.1 percent said they had "not decided at all" -- which means this race is still wide open.

The latest independent statewide survey shows Republican wunderkind Bobby Jindal breaking out of the GOP pack and moving into second place among the eight major candidates, behind Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco and just ahead of Attorney General Richard Ieyoub. The overall leader, however, continues to be "undecided."

The same poll also shows state Rep. Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans with a commanding lead in the race for lieutenant governor, ahead of all his GOP rivals combined.

The survey was taken July 16-21 by Southern Media and Opinion Research (SMOR) of Baton Rouge, which has polled statewide races for news organizations and businesses for more than a decade. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Here are the statewide results in the governor's race:

Undecided/Won't Say, 41.3%

Kathleen Blanco, 17.2%

Bobby Jindal, 11.3%

Richard Ieyoub, 9.4%

Buddy Leach, 5.7%

Randy Ewing, 5.4%

Dan Kyle, 3.6%

Hunt Downer, 3.1%

Jay Blossman, 2.9%

Blanco, Ieyoub, Leach and Ewing are Democrats. The rest are Republicans.

One of the most telling results of the survey was the first question, which asked voters how "definite" they are about which candidate they will vote for on election day. A whopping 71.1 percent said they had "not decided at all" -- which means this race is still wide open. It also means that the front-runners' support is probably somewhat "soft." Only 10.2 percent said they had "definitely decided."

That's really no surprise, because the hard-core campaigning has not yet begun. It means, however, that a lot of folks will be making up their minds in a very short time, and it underscores the significance of fund-raising. Candidates with enough money to get their messages out will likely leave the others in the dust after Labor Day.

SMOR also asked voters whether they had an overall favorable or unfavorable impression of each candidate. This is another good barometer of who has room to grow once the campaign heats up.

Among the Republican candidates, only Jindal gets an overall "favorable" rating from voters in the survey, whereas among Democrats only Leach has an overall "unfavorable" rating. Here are the particulars, with "favorable" percentages listed first:

Blanco, 48.6/ 21.8

Blossman, 13.6/ 29.4

Downer, 12.7/ 20.8

Ewing, 25.3/ 19.2

Ieyoub, 39.2/ 31.2

Jindal, 29.2/ 17.8

Kyle, 18.2/ 23.1

Leach, 21.7/ 32.4

Blanco has the highest favorable ratings -- and the strongest ratio (more than 2-1) of favorable-to-unfavorable rankings. Blossman, Ieyoub and Leach have the highest unfavorable ratings -- with Blossman having the highest ratio of unfavorable-to-favorable rankings (more than 2-1). After the survey was released, Blossman blasted the poll and alleged that pollster Bernie Pinsonat was biased. History shows, however, that SMOR polls are among the most accurate in the state, year in and year out. Blossman's "kill the messenger" strategy only makes him look more desperate in light of his last-place showing.

Geographically, Blanco leads in two of the survey's four regions (18.8 percent in metro New Orleans and 27.1 percent in Acadiana), although she's only slightly ahead of Jindal in metro New Orleans, where he gets 17.9 percent. Jindal, meanwhile, leads in the Florida Parishes region (14.2 percent). Ewing, the only candidate from north of Baton Rouge, leads in north Louisiana with 18.4 percent.

Blanco also leads among Democrats (with 18.7 percent) and Independents (22.1 percent), while Jindal leads among Republicans with 17.9 percent.

If there is a weakness to the two front-runners, it's the so-called gender gap. Blanco, not surprisingly, fares much better among women (18.8 percent) than among men (14.9 percent). The difference is even more pronounced for Jindal, who is favored more by men (15.8 percent) than women (8.3 percent). All other candidates fare more or less equally well (or poorly) among men and women.

In the lieutenant governor's race, the SMOR poll is great news for Landrieu, who locked up literally hundreds of endorsements before his opponents got started. He faces three Republicans -- state Rep. (and former Lt. Gov.) Melinda Schwegmann, Kenner trial lawyer Stephen Rue, and Baton Rouge civic leader Kirt Bennett, who is African-American.

Here are the results:

Undecided/Won't Say, 55.1%

Landrieu, 28.4%

Schwegmann, 11.4%

Bennett, 3.3%

Rue, 1.8%

If any of Landrieu's GOP opponents hope to make this a race, they have a lot of catching up to do. With all the money that's going to be spent in the governor's contest, it's going to be difficult for any "down ballot" candidates to capture voters' attention.

Then again, that's why candidates wage campaigns. You never know what can happen once the starting gates open -- particularly when so many voters have yet to make up their minds.


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