Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Tea Party-backed Louisiana Senate candidate Rob Maness is the only candidate in the race who can defeat Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE (D-La.).

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Perkins told The Hill on Friday at the Values Voters Summit that he’s seen “private polling,” not conducted for the campaign, that shows Maness more competitive in a runoff than Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the establishment pick and GOP front-runner in the polls.

“I think our best chance to pick up a Senate seat in Louisiana is Rob Maness. That’s why I endorsed him,” he said.

Perkins said Cassidy faces an “enthusiasm deficit,” and knocked him for being “static [in the polls] for a year and a half, despite raising millions of dollars.”

“There’s a reason for that. It goes back to that enthusiasm deficit,” he said. “He’s a moderate candidate who stays away from many issues, and he’s just not exciting conservatives.”

In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party, are on the same ballot in November, and if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters head to a December runoff, which Perkins said he expects.

That’s the likely outcome in Louisiana this fall, as most polling of the race has shown Landrieu far below 50 percent — and Cassidy, in some cases, leading her. In nearly every public poll that tested the two runoff match-ups, Cassidy performs better than Maness.

Perkins said, however, the polling he’s seen shows Maness defeating Landrieu in a runoff, while Cassidy loses to her.

Maness has drawn some national conservative attention and support, but he hasn’t managed to pick up much traction in the race. A trio of polls showed him cracking double-digit support, but the most recent survey, conducted in mid-September for Fox News, gave him just 7 percent support.

Still, Perkins said he’s “optimistic” Maness could make the runoff, noting the fact that he’s raised $2 million and will have some high-profile conservatives stumping for him over the next few weeks. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is headed to Louisiana for an event for him this weekend, and Perkins said he’s planning to headline an event for the candidate next month.

Though Perkins will be stumping for Maness, he said he doesn’t have plans for a bigger run of his own in the future. Asked whether he’s interested in running for president in 2016, the social conservative leader scoffed.

“I’ve been around too many presidential campaigns. I know too much. That’s for people who don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.