Louisiana Governor's Race Will Measure Trump's Influence
Voters in Louisiana are going to the polls on Saturday to decide several statewide races, including the contest for governor. Polls show that the race is a toss-up between incumbent Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Edwards came close to winning the race outright last month, but failed to get the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff.
Both parties are making a maximum effort in resources and boots on the ground as national media has decided that if Republicans lose in deep-red Louisiana, it will be a sign of Democratic victory next November.
Admittedly, it won't look good. But Edwards is a popular incumbent and Rispone has never stood for political office before. Of course, those facts will be forgotten in the breathless reporting tomorrow if the Republican loses.
The early voting doesn't favor Republicans.
Early voting in the state this week reached a record volume in a nonpresidential year as the contest rises in statewide and national prominence. In a positive sign for Edwards, black voters made up approximately 31 percent of all those who cast their ballots early, a roughly 6-point bump from the share of black voters in the first round of balloting last month.
“There are just very few black voters who are going to support a Republican, and particularly this Republican who is aligning himself so much with Donald Trump,” Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, told The Hill this week. “A black voter who is motivated to go vote is a vote for John Bel Edwards.”
Early voting results also showed that Democrats made up a larger share of the electorate than in the first round of balloting.
This is a familiar story in early voting so the GOP shouldn't panic. Republicans have pulled out all the stops for Rispone.
For their part, Republicans have opened up the coffers for Rispone as they work to unseat Edwards. The Republican National Committee (RNC) has poured more than $1 million into late get-out-the-vote efforts, doubling its previous investment. The committee also sent 60 paid staffers to Louisiana.
Trump is well aware of the importance of the race and campaigned for Rispone three times. The last rally, held in Bossier, was two days ago and was a raucous affair with the president filling the 14,000 seat arena to the rafters.
It's usually a mistake to nationalize a state race unless there's a national issue. The GOP in 2010 swept to victory by making local elections a national referendum on Obamacare. Democrats have been trying to nationalize the Louisiana governor race by attempting to make Trump the issue.
We'll see how successful they were.