- The Washington Times
Thursday, October 17, 2019

Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is tied with his Republican challenger in the first poll made public since last week’s primary.

Mr. Edwards and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone are tied at 47% support, according to the poll, which will be made public Friday by We Ask America. The result shows that Mr. Rispone has quickly consolidated the Republican vote in the Pelican State, a development that should make him a more formidable opponent as Mr. Edwards seeks re-election Nov. 16.

In 2015, when Mr. Edwards’ victory surprised political experts and made him the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, he faced a divided Republican opposition.

“Having failed to clinch re-election in the initial primary election this past weekend, [Mr. Edwards] incumbent finds himself now tied (47%-47%) with [Mr.] Rispone,” said We Ask America pollster Andrew Weissert. “While still well-regarded with voters, Edwards sits identical to the percentage he received in the primary.¨

We Ask America provided an early copy of its poll to The Washington Times.

Mr. Rispone appears to have benefited not only from the endorsement of Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham, who finished third in Saturday’s jungle primary voting, but also from the strong support of President Trump, who carried Louisiana easily in 2016 and remains popular.

“Rispone has quickly moved to consolidate the Republican base and with the national spotlight shining bright on Louisiana, President Trump’s stellar job approval with Louisianans will only serve to help Rispone in the sprint to the runoff next month,” Mr. Weissert said.

In Louisiana, the conventional wisdom now holds that Mr. Edwards must find a way to drive Democratic turnout to record highs and increase the percentage of African-American voters from the primary.

The latest poll shows some worrisome trends for the Edwards campaign, as New Orleans had the second lowest percentage of “definite” voters among zones surveyed. Only Baton Rouge topped 85% for “definite” voters. Those two urban areas represent the only Democratic strongholds remaining in the state.

The Edwards campaign expressed suspicions about the poll, although We Ask America said it was not commissioned by any campaign. Nonetheless, the Edwards campaign disputed the figures and said it is comfortable with its internal numbers that show the governor defeating Mr. Rispone in a head-to-head matchup.

Mr. Edwards’ supporters had pushed a narrative that he was strong enough to cross the 50 percent threshold needed in the primary election to avoid a runoff, but those hopes were dashed and have been replaced with a sense of foreboding among some Democrats and cheers from state Republicans.

The Republicans swept all other statewide offices, in some cases by landslide margins, and increased their standing to a super-majority in the state senate.

We Ask America proved accurate in Louisiana last month. On Sept. 27, it released a poll that showed Mr. Edwards mired at 47 percent. That poll was only the second to detect that Mr. Rispone, who bankrolled his campaign with more than $11.5 million of his own money, had overtaken Mr. Abraham for second place.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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