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Research 2000's latest poll for Daily Kos indicates that the state's junior Senator, right-wing Republican David Vitter, faces a very tough battle for reelection both within his own party and in prospective general-election matchups with reasonably strong Democrats.

This should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone figuring on running for office: a socially conservative "family-values" platform doesn't work too well for you if your favorite recreational pastime is screwing hookers while wearing diapers.

Vitter's sins have virtually ensured he will receive a serious Republican primary challenge, whether it be from Dardenne, from Daniels, or from Family Research Council captain Tony Perkins.

The biggest news in this poll is that he will be vulnerable to a challenge from the left, as well as the right. If Democrats put up a serious candidate against Vitter, they will have a legitimate chance at taking him down. Vitter is under 50% and within single digits against two of the state's better-known Democrats, Rep. Charlie Melancon and former Rep. Don Cazayoux, and this is before a presumably bruising Republican primary battle against diaper-free opponents.

Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 3/2-4. Registered voters. MoE 4%. (No trend lines)

David Vitter (R) 48
Charlie Melancon (D) 41

David Vitter (R) 48
Don Cazayoux (D) 39

Vitter is below 50% - and within single digits - against both Democrats, and his numbers will presumably go further down if he faces a strong primary challenge.

Melancon has disavowed interest in a Senate run, though he  hasn't categorically ruled it out, and there has been little news on Cazayoux's future plans aside from a rumored appointment as U.S. Attorney. We used Melancon and Cazayoux essentially as stand-ins for "strong Democratic candidate"; neither is expected to run, although it's now clear either would have a good shot at a Senate seat. More likely Democratic candidates include Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard, the former head of the Louisiana Democratic Party, and former Blue Dog Rep. Chris John, who ran against Vitter in 2004 and was defeated quite handily in the general election.

Of course, this is all assuming Vitter makes it to the general election. This is hardly a certainty; far from it, in fact; Vitter is at just 43% in a potential Republican primary matchup with Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne.

Republican Primary (MoE 5%)

David Vitter 43
Jay Dardenne 32
Stormy Daniels 1

The bright news for Vitter, such as it is, is that despite his own personal sex scandals, he runs well ahead of porn star and touted Senate candidate Stormy Daniels, who receives 1% of the vote in the primary matchup.

It may be too early to count the Storm out, though, as she has virtually no name recognition. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she enjoys marginally superior favorability from men than women.

Dardenne has stayed out of the race so far, and doesn't look to be primarying Vitter next year, though he could be drafted into the race. Again, we used Dardenne essentially as a stand-in for "strong Republican primary challenger". Dardenne's numbers against the Democrats are roughly equivalent to Vitter's, suggesting that Vitter is performing little better than a generic Republican at this stage.

Perkins was not polled, though with his standing as the Louisiana extension of the Focus on the Family set, he could cause real problems for Vitter in a primary, presumably focusing on the peccadilloes in Vitter's personal life in contrast to his own holier-than-thou persona. He's run for the Senate before, and could do so again.

Perkins could win the primary on his family-values platform (that's what got Vitter himself this far, before he was undone by his diapers). He's probably too radical to beat a moderate-to-conservative Democrat in the general election, however. If he fails to win the primary, he could irreparably damage Vitter for the general election, so it would be quite advantageous for Democrats all around if he gets in.

Finally, check out these favorable/unfavorable numbers, including Governor Bobby Jindal:

                  Favorable  Unfavorable    Net

Jay Dardenne (R)     48         22          26
Charlie Melancon (D) 43         18          25
Don Cazayoux (D)     41         21          20
Bobby Jindal (R)     54         39          15
David Vitter (R)     49         42          7
Barack Obama (D)     47         44          3
Stormy Daniels (R)    7          7          0

David Vitter's net favorables are the worst of any reasonably well-known Louisiana politician polled, only slightly better than Barack Obama's (who lost the state by 19 points). That's little surprise.

What is surprising is that the next-weakest of the four is Bobby Jindal.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 02:10 PM PST.

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