Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jindal Down in Poll. But Far from Out

It seems that the S.S. Jindal has taken on some water according to the latest poll from Southern Media and Opinion Research survey on statewide officials.

Governor Bobby Jindal, who had spent a considerable amount of time on the campaign trail for Republican candidates across the country (Louisiana excepted) and has recently been touring the nation promoting a book he wrote on leadership, saw his poll numbers fall significantly, an indication that a sizable portion of the Louisiana electorate is not enamored with his out of state travels.

According to the SMOR data, Jindal’s approval rating stood at 55%, a six point dip since the last survey the Baton Rouge-based polling company performed in the spring. Matching Jindal’s popularity dip was the rise in his negative rating, which climbed to 43%.

Jindal’s SMOR poll numbers have tumbled considerably since the spring of 2009, where the governor enjoyed a high, if not unrealistically so, 68% approval rating with a 30% negative rating.

At first glance, the most troubling aspect of the poll for Jindal is that only 39% of respondents said they would definitely vote to re-elect him with 35% stating they would definitely vote for someone else. However, as 35% is about the state’s hardcore Democratic vote, that number isn’t as astonishing as it might appear. In fact it’s automatic opposition to any candidate with an “R” next to his or her name.

Jindal has been flayed in the local press for being out of state so much during very dire budget times with the most stinging hit coming courtesy of the LSU student government president who used mocking letters to the editor in newspapers in states that hold early presidential primaries and caucuses to slam the governor for his extracurricular political activities beyond Louisiana and for the expected severe hit to the state’s higher education budget.

The governor’s numbers have also been affected by the constant speculation that he will run for president, despite Jindal’s constant claims he will not be a candidate. Once Jindal’s bid for re-election as governor begins, concerns about his presidential aspirations, at least in 2012, will be quelled and resentment for his out of state travels will subside when people see him in Bunkie instead of Des Moines.

Jindal’s lower approval rating isn’t politically terminal. The governor has raised an astounding $8,000,000 after three years of constant fundraising in Louisiana and beyond. A challenger is going to have a hard time putting together even half that amount, especially almost exclusively in-state.

As one of the GOP’s rising stars, Jindal parlayed his celebrity status to attract dollars to his campaign from people in other states that normally wouldn’t care about who wins governor of Louisiana. Jindal’s Democratic “Opponent To Be Named Later” is going to have a hard time getting someone in Delaware to spend $1,000 on a photo op with him or her.

In all likelihood, Jindal will have the capacity to spend $2 defining his opponent for every $1 he or she spends just trying to build name recognition.

And who is the Democrat “Opponent to Be Named Later” going to be? The Baton Rouge Advocate recently did an article on potential Democratic challengers with none committing to the race beyond “consideration” and two in particular offering clever quips renouncing even the prospect of running.

And while first time candidate Caroline Fayard proved that quasi-self-financing with generous sums of money is one way to pole vault over better established politicians in the primary, the end result was being on the wrong side of a runoff landslide against a candidate she outspent by a wide-margin.

And I should add, that was for an office the public doesn’t really care about.

Jindal’s most vocal critic is a fellow Republican, State Treasurer John Kennedy, who has sparred with the fourth floor in the press over the budget.

Kennedy, who has the highest approval rating of the officials polled at 61%, is not expected to challenge Jindal, with a source close to the treasurer stating, “John has the job he wants”.

And though stern words have been exchanged between the two Republicans, Jindal is in no danger of losing his core GOP base- that being the same bloc of voters responsible for dispatching the last Republican governor that lost re-election.

Though Jindal’s poll numbers have fallen and might fall even further as the budget battle becomes more public and protracted, until he draws an opponent who can match his well-stocked warchest and convince Louisiana voters that had just overwhelmingly embraced the Republican ticket to swing back to the Democratic Party, the governor goes into the election year a heavy favorite for a primary win.

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