Probability Favors Vitter, But Edwards Better Positioned to Win

Oct 27, 2015

Dr. Michael Henderson
Credit Sue Lincoln

What the heck happened in the governor’s race Saturday night? Dr. Michael Henderson with the LSU Public Policy Research Lab says the runoff matchup really isn’t a surprise.

“I mean, we’ve known for months that this looked like it was going to be Vitter and Edwards,” Henderson told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday.

“You’ll hear some folks say, ‘Well, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute! Vitter’s numbers were coming down in those closing weeks, and it was tighter than expected.’ Sure, it was tighter than expected maybe five months ago, but it was not tighter than expected given polling results in recent weeks.”

Henderson says while the polls did well in predicting the final outcomes among the three top Republican contenders, but missed the strength of the Democrat, John Bel Edwards.

“They weren’t so good at pegging Edwards to get up to 40 percent,” Henderson stated. “To me, that was more of a surprise.”

Do the primary results foreshadow Louisiana’s changing from a red to a blue state? Henderson says it’s not the most likely runoff result.

“In the South, the Republican tends to win over the Democrat by a comfortable margin, so the fundamentals suggest Vitter wins -- not a blowout, but a comfortable margin. That’s what happens nine out of ten times.”

Yet Henderson acknowledges this election could be the one time in ten when the fundamentals don’t hold true. To win, Vitter and Edwards will each be vying for the voters who picked Angelle and Dardenne in the primary.

“They don’t sound like big fans of David Vitter.”

Henderson says the LSU Public Policy Lab has data to support that contention.

“During the primary we asked whether people had strongly favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, strongly unfavorable opinions of each of the major candidates. And people who liked Dardenne more than any other candidate really, really, really dislike David Vitter: 70% unfavorable towards David Vitter.”

Henderson says while he leans toward the conventional wisdom, this is Louisiana -- where politics is anything but conventional. So he’s not ruling out the possibility of an Edwards victory.

“Two weeks from now, if the polls still show it’s close, we need to give more weight to those polls, and say, ‘You know what? This time it is different’.”