Santorum edging Romney, Gingrich in Louisiana

posted at 11:35 am on March 13, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

With most eyes focused on Alabama and Mississippi in tonight’s contests, some may forget that another Deep South state goes to the polls next week.  Louisiana will hold a binding primary on March 24th, which will be the last contest for ten days.  Thus far, Rick Santorum has the edge in Louisiana, but the poll from WWL-TV and GCR shows Mitt Romney within the margin of error, followed closely by Newt Gingrich (via the Weekly Standard):

A new, exclusive statewide poll of likely Republican voters in Louisiana conducted for WWL-TV shows voters favoring Rick Santorum, with the primary election two weeks away.

The telephone poll of 515 likely Republican voters reveals Santorum leading the field, with just over 25 percent of the vote.

Mitt Romney places second with just under 21 percent and is in a virtual tie with Newt Gingrich, who has almost 20 percent. Ron Paul is way behind, with less than 6 percent. Undecided gets the biggest score of all — 26 percent.

WWL-TV election analyst Greg Rigamer, whose firm, GCR & Associates, conducted the survey from March 8-10, stresses this is a poll of Republicans with a very significant voting history.

“We would expect that in a low turnout election,” Rigamer said.

The internals of this poll aren’t available, but WWR reports on a few interesting points.  The percentage of undecided voters doubles from men (17%) to women (34%), which means that a gender gap may play into late-breaking decisions on voting — which would tend to favor Romney, if national trends hold.  Overall, 26% haven’t yet made a decision, which means that tonight’s contests could influence those results.  Big wins for any of the top three candidates in Alabama and/or Mississippi might generate some Southern momentum and push one into a solid lead in Louisiana.

The poll has better news for Santorum on more than just the popular vote.  Like many other states, Louisiana will award delegates based on Congressional districts.  At the moment, the poll shows Santorum leading in three districts and tying Gingrich in a fourth.  Romney leads in two districts and ties Gingrich in a third.  Gingrich leads in no districts, with only the two ties.  Romney’s support mainly comes from LA-02, which comprises New Orleans, so even an overall popular-vote win might result in a near-even split of delegates.  With Romney’s lead, however, that wouldn’t be bad news at all for his campaign, while Santorum and Gingrich both need wins.

Both of them would probably like to get Bobby Jindal’s endorsement to cinch the state, but Jindal will take a pass, according to CNN:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will not endorse a candidate ahead of the state’s March 24 primary, a source close to the governor told CNN.

Jindal, certain to be short-listed by the Republican nominee as a potential running mate, endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry last fall and campaigned aggressively on his behalf before Perry ended his campaign in January.

Jindal would make an attractive running mate for any of the three top candidates, but especially for Mitt Romney.  I’d guess that after Perry’s exit, Jindal has wisely decided to keep his options open.


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