BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Democrat John Bel Edwards leads the pack in the race to be Louisiana's next governor, according to a new WAFB-TV/Raycom Media poll. But a whopping 37% of voters are still undecided, the poll shows.
The survey of 602 registered voters shows Edwards with 24% of the vote. Republican David Vitter came in second with 21% followed by fellow Republicans Jay Dardenne with 8% and Scott Angelle with 7%. Three percent refused to answer or selected another candidate in the race. The portion of the poll surveying all registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
The poll was conducted by Metairie-based Multi-Quest and was conducted October 7-13th. Raycom television stations WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, WVUE-TV in New Orleans, KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, and KSLA-TV in Shreveport paid for the poll to be conducted.
WAFB Political Analyst Jim Engster says the biggest revelation from the results is that 37% of the voters are still undecided. "There's still room for growth for someone," Engster said. "The question is whether that 37 percent flows among all candidates or benefits Angelle or Dardenne. But, at this point, I think there's about an 85% chance this will end in a runoff between Edwards and Vitter."
Of the 602 voters surveyed, 407 of them said they were likely to vote in the October 24th election. Of those likely voters, the lead for Edwards increased to 32%. That was followed by Vitter at 24%, and both Angelle and Dardenne with 10%. Among likely voters, 21% said they were still undecided. Three percent chose other candidates or refused to answer, the poll shows.
Angelle's campaign manager, Ryan Cross, disputed the poll findings. "These numbers are not consistent with the momentum on the ground and our internal polling," Cross said. "Scott Angelle is continuing to close the gap and it's a tight race between he and David Vitter."
The poll also asked the 407 likely voters who they would choose if the only two candidates in the race were Edwards and Vitter. In that matchup, Edwards got 52% compared to Vitter with 33%. The remaining voters were either undecided or declined to answer. Pollster John Grimm of Multi-Quest points out those numbers are based on those who are likely to vote in the primary.
However, as local races are decided, there would likely be a major drop off in turnout for a runoff and that could pull Edwards below the 50% mark, Grimm said. With Edwards being the lone major Democrat in the primary, Grimm says he has watched the three major Republican candidates vie for the same primary voters. Grimm points out Edwards has been largely untouched by his opponents so far in the campaign, a dynamic that would certainly change in a bitterly fought runoff election. "The Republicans are eating their own instead of dealing with the Democrat," Grimm said.
All of the candidates who got at least 5% of support in the Raycom poll have been invited to take part in next Monday's gubernatorial debate produced by WAFB-TV. It will air on statewide television. Edwards, Dardenne and Angelle have all agreed to take part. Vitter declined the invitation. The debate will air live from the Louisiana Governor's Mansion.
Engster says he believes Vitter is avoiding the Raycom statewide debate because he does not want to take the risk of making a mistake or having the issue of his prior prostitution scandal be raised in the forum.
Results of how the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor's race is shaping up will be released Thursday afternoon.