too close to call
By John Hill, La. Gannett News Service
BATON ROUGE - The governor's race narrowed to
a four-point gap, a dramatic shift as Republican Bobby Jindal
dropped three points and Democrat Kathleen Blanco rose two points
in Verne Kennedy's tracking poll out Thursday morning.
The poll trends led Kennedy to say the race is
becoming too close to call.
The sample of 600 taken three nights through Wednesday
night put it at 46 percent for Jindal, down from 49 percent
the day before, and 42 percent for Blanco, up from 39 percent
the day before.
Kennedy said his projections show that if the
election had been held Tuesday, Jindal would have been ahead
by one 1 percent, which means the race is within the poll's
margin of error of 4 points.
"It's enough to be called a trend. It's still
46-42, but when you adjust the African-American vote to take
the undecided African-American vote to give it the Democrat,
this race is around 1 percent. That's too close to know,"
Jindal's black support slipped from 11 percent
to 7 percent, with undecided blacks at 21 percent while 72 of
blacks supported Blanco. Among whites, Jindal led with 60-31.
Among men, Jindal led 52-38, but Blanco led among
Jindal's big drop is occurring in the Baton Rouge
and Florida parishes north of Lake Pontchartrain, Kennedy said.
"Based on tracking numbers through Tuesday,
I thought that Jindal had moved far enough in front that he
had a high probability of victory," Kennedy said. "However,
based upon results through Wednesday, especially the 400 interviews
conducted Tuesday and Wednesday night, the race now is almost
"My projection is an election held Wednesday
would have resulted in a Jindal victory by about 1 percent,
but that's too close to call," Kennedy said.
"The decided change that has occurred is
in suburban voters outside of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, in
which Jindal maintained a very strong lead until the last two
days," Kennedy. "These voters are whites in white-collar
occupations and also include a number of government employees."
"There is something happening in East Baton
Rouge, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Washington and St. Tammany parishes,"
Over the three nights in those parishes, Jindal's
lead dropped from 61-23 on Monday, 59-28 on Tuesday and 48-40
on Wednesday. "That's a trend," Kennedy said. The
race also narrowed in the New Orleans area that includes populous
Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes, where his lead has narrowed
from six to four points.
Jindal gained support in North Louisiana, going
from a 47-40 lead to a 50-38, but Blanco seems to be holding
her Acadiana base.
The poll was taken through 9 p.m. Wednesday, an
hour after the debate in which there was a dramatic moment in
which Blanco, asked to name the "defining moment"
in her life, answered that it was the death of a child. Her
son, Ben, was crushed by falling steel ball in an industrial
accident a few days shy of his 20th birthday in January 1997.
His brother, Ray, now 31, was standing at his side when the
"The most defining moment in my life came,"
Blanco said, pausing to choke back emotion, "when I lost
"Those are the moment when you have to really,
really know that you have faith and faith can bring you where
you have to go," she said, apologizing that "it is
difficult to talk about it."
Blanco has never publicly discussed the loss of
her child during the campaign.
"That's what makes me what I am today, knowing
that one of the worst things that could happen to a person happened
to me, and we were able to protect our family, and the rest
of my children are stronger because of it,"
One of the panelists on the debate, George Sells,
anchorman of WAFB, said, "In the studio, it was a very
Jindal said his defining moment came "when
Christ found me" when he was in high school, when he converted
from the Hindu religion of his parents, who came to Louisiana
from their native India. "It is certainly changed my life,
have changed me as a man and the father that I've tried to be,"
Jindal, 32, worked in the Bush administration
and was State Secretary of Health and Hospitals under Foster.
Born a Hindu, he converted to Catholicism, and his poll manifesto
has been drafted to draw as many conservative votes as possible.
He added there were other moments, such as his
marriage and the birth of his child.
"I don't have to describe the joy of bring
home a daughter from the same hospital where I was born,"
Kennedy said the sampling was too small to be
scientifically accurate, but the Wednesday night interviews
conducted following the debate were very strong for Blanco,
a two-to-one margin.
Blanco and Jindal also differentiated themselves
on several issues, including abortion. Blanco said she's opposed
to abortions, with the exceptions for rape, incest and to save
the life of the mother. While Jindal said he is opposed to all
abortion, but if a procedure to save the life of the mother
is conducted and an abortion results, that would be okay. He
said that he is opposed to abortion for victims of rape or incest.
There was a definite shift after the debate, Kennedy
said, but the full impact of the debate will not be known until
he polls an addition 400 voters Thursday night and adds them
to the 200 sampled on Wednesday night. Wednesday's night's sample
put it at 44 for Blanco and 41 for Jindal.
Blanco's campaign put out a press release noting
that based on the 400 samples of Tuesday and Wednesday nights
only, the race was tied at 44 percent.
"I feel my campaign surging as I have moved
around the state in the past few days," Blanco said. "These
poll numbers how my message about the difference between me
and my opponent is bring more voters to me," she said.
The Jindal camp remains confident.
"The other polls we have seen out there still
show us farther ahead," said Jindal spokesman Trey Williams.
"We think this race is going to be close and, with our
turnout efforts, we are going to be successful on Saturday."
Kennedy said that based on tracking numbers through
Tuesday night, "I thought Jindal had moved far enough in
front that he had a high probability of victory. However, based
on based upon results through Wednesday, especially the 400
interviews conducted Tuesday and Wednesday night, the race now
is almost even."
"My projection is an election held Wednesday
would have results in a Jindal victory by about 1 percent, but
that's too close to call," Kennedy said.
Southern University political scientist Frank
Ransburg said he's not surprised about Jindal's appearing to
lose black support.
"I've said all along that the black vote
would go to the Democratic candidate, no matter who the Democratic
candidate might be," Ransburg. "The black vote is
more loyal to the Democratic Party than Catholics are to the
He said he expects in excess of 90 percent of
the black vote will go to Blanco. "It has nothing to do
with Mr. Jindal as a person, he just represents the Republican
Party, and black voters identify with the Democratic Party."