Early analysis of the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor’s Runoff

A week ago, 22% of Louisiana voters voted in the special election for Lieutenant Governor, and in that primary contest, Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne finished first with 28%, while Democratic attorney Caroline Fayard finished second with 24%.

At the time we did our post election analysis, we noted that 64% of Louisiana voters voted for one of five Republicans who were running. We also noted that the first order of business for Jay Dardenne in the runoff campaign was to consolidate the Republican vote. In rapid fire succession, this happened last week, as Roger Villere, Sammy Kershaw, and Kevin Davis all endorsed Dardenne. Similarly, “Butch” Gautreaux on the Democratic side endorsed Caroline Fayard.

So what will it take for Jay Dardenne to win ? We examined the results at the parish and precinct level, and we conservatively estimated that Dardenne will get 80% of Kevin Davis’ vote (mostly Republican suburbanites from Metro New Orleans) and 75% of Roger Villere’s vote (we’re pessimistically assuming that there will be some disgruntled supporters who will either not vote in this race or vote for Fayard as a protest vote against a candidate they believe is a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only)). Given these estimates, Jay Dardenne only needs 40% of Sammy Kershaw’s vote to win in November, although we believe he’ll get 60% of that crucial bloc of voters.

In developing this estimate, there are several additional things we noticed when looking at the data in more detail:

(1)  On both sides of the “Cypress Curtain” (explained here), voter support for the Democratic candidates was remarkably consistent: 37% of voters east of the “curtain” voted Democratic, while west of the “curtain”, 36% voted for one of the Democratic candidates;

(2)  As we had predicted back in July,  Jay Dardenne finished strongly in the Baton Rouge (where he got 45%) and New Orleans media markets (where he got 26%). Though in the primary, Kevin Davis’ 19% of the vote in Metro New Orleans undoubtedly came at Dardenne’s expense, we believe that Jay can easily pick up these votes in November. Meanwhile, Dardenne only got 23% in North/Central Louisiana and 20% in Southwest Louisiana – this is where the Kershaw endorsement/tour will provide an important assist, because he got 27% of the vote in North/Central Louisiana and 33% in Southwest Louisiana;

(3)  Caroline Fayard, on the other hand, received a consistent level of support throughout the state – in all four regions (Baton Rouge media market, New Orleans media market, North/Central Louisiana, and Southwest Louisiana), her support ranged between 22-27%;

(4)  An argument can be made that in November, turnout will be higher than the 22% who voted in the October primary, and that this increased turnout will benefit Fayard, as well as Charlie Melancon and other Democratic House candidates. What this piece of conventional wisdom fails to account for is that in the October primary, local races and mayoral races in Alexandria and Shreveport actually drove up Democratic turnout in several parishes. So in a sense, the Democrats already got their “turnout bump” – in fact, in parishes where the turnout was above the 22% statewide average, the Dardenne lead over Fayard was cut in half to 27-25% (he won 28-24% statewide);

(5)  We also would like to debunk the conventional wisdom that Caroline Fayard drove up the turnout in Metro New Orleans and therefore was able to make it into the runoff. In the primary, turnout in Orleans Parish was 15%, while it was 19% in Jefferson Parish – both figures were below the statewide average. Furthermore, in Orleans Parish precincts where less than 20% of the voters were black (e.g., Uptown, the Garden District, and Lakeview), Dardenne led 45-28% (11% for Davis) in the same precincts that gave Barack Obama 50% of the vote. In predominately white precincts in next door Jefferson Parish, Dardenne led 36-13% (23% for Davis). In other words, this “base vote” that Fayard received in these two parishes was the same base vote available to any serious Democratic candidate in Louisiana;

In closing, with the conservative assumptions we have made above (Dardenne gets 80% of Kevin Davis’ vote, 75% of Roger Villere’s vote, and 60% of Sammy Kershaw’s vote), we believe that Dardenne will win with 53% of the vote. Below is a graphic depiction by parish of what that vote would look like:

Lt Gov Runoff Projection By Parish