Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) has opened up a 16-point lead over Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuLouisiana needs Caroline Fayard as its new senator La. Senate contender books seven-figure ad buy Crowded field muddies polling in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.) in their Louisiana Senate runoff, according to an internal poll conducted on behalf of the Cassidy campaign and obtained by The Hill.
Cassidy takes 56.6 percent against Landrieu’s 40.5 percent in the poll conducted by Magellan Strategies. While internal polls should be viewed with some skepticism, it’s the first head-to-head poll to be released in the runoff period. The RealClearPolitics average of polls taken before Election Day showed Cassidy up by 5 percent in the head-to-head matchup.
On Election Day, Landrieu took 43 percent in a field where Republicans split the vote. Cassidy trailed in at 42 percent, and Tea Party candidate Rob Maness at 14 percent. Louisiana’s election rules require a run-off on Dec. 6 between the top two candidates because no candidate topped 50 percent of the vote.
Maness has since rallied conservatives to back Cassidy. Influential conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) and former vice presidential contender Sarah Palin have endorsed Cassidy and are participating in “unity rallies” to help him unseat Landrieu.
Louisiana Democrats say that Republicans are late to rally behind Cassidy because he doesn’t inspire confidence within GOP circles. They also point to Maness’s double-digit support in the general election and say those Louisiana voters won’t turn out for Cassidy in the runoff just because national Republicans have now taken an interest in the race.
According to the poll, Landrieu’s big lead among African-American voters — she takes almost 90 percent in the poll to Cassidy’s 7 percent — isn’t enough to make up for Cassidy’s strength among white voters, who in exit polls made up about 75 percent of the electorate in 2014.
Landrieu only captured about 18 percent of white voters in Louisiana on Election Day, according to exit polling. However, her percentage of the black vote was in the high 90s — a larger percentage than the Cassidy poll gives her now.
The poll shows that President Obama is a major drag on Landrieu, and since she’s returned to Washington for the lame-duck session, she’s sought to put as much space as possible between herself and the president.
On Wednesday, Landrieu spent hours on the Senate floor urging colleagues to bring her bill authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline up for a vote, a controversial project that Obama opposes. A vote could also help Landrieu remind Louisianans of her clout on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Landrieu sought to distance herself from Democratic leadership in the Senate — she was one of a handful of Democrats to vote against Sen. Harry Reid’s reelection as Democratic leader on Thursday, according to NOLA.com.