Sam Hanna Jr.

The woods are on fire!

Maybe not ablaze but there’s certainly a nervousness among Republican voters in Louisiana that’s been absent from the political landscape in recent memory. It stems from the realization that Gov. John Bel Edwards — a Democrat in ruby red Louisiana — is on cruise control en route to easily winning a second term in office in the Oct. 12 primary election. It’s so bad that Republicans are questioning whether Edwards’ two Republican opponents — Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone and Congressman Ralph Abraham of Alto — can mount a strong enough challenge to force Edwards into a run-off in November.

If one were to place a wager at this stage in the game, bet heavy on JBE in October.

There’s still hope for Abraham and Rispone, though they would be wise to act sooner rather than later. They especially should ignore any advice that suggests they can afford to wait until late summer before taking to the airwaves to cast aspersions against Edwards and his record. There’s plenty to expose, beginning with Edwards’ own parole board freeing convicted felons and a killer or two as if the survival of mankind depended upon it.

Edwards has the upper hand for a couple of reasons. No. 1, he’s an incumbent governor who can mimic Santa Claus courtesy of the state treasury. No. 2, he’s got more than $10 million in his campaign account while his primary political action committee has a couple of million dollars on hand as well. No. 3, Edwards has the black vote in his hip pocket.

Rispone supposedly can match Edwards money-wise but only because he dipped into his own deep pockets for a second $5-million loan to his campaign in order to prop up his campaign finance report that was due April 15. Those who claim to know Rispone well say he’s a very wise and generous man who didn’t become wealthy by making bad investments. That tells us Rispone probably recognizes that dumping even a slither of his personal fortune into a governor’s race would represent a bad move.

Then there’s Abraham. The good doctor posted a rather impressive haul on the fundraising front for the first quarter of the year with more than $750,000 raised. He even outraised Rispone, minus Rispone putting up his own money.

Still, Abraham only had a little more than $1 million on hand as of mid-month. In a governor’s race, $1 million won’t buy much but Abraham could use it to make a sizable media buy to let his opponents and his naysayers know that he’s going nowhere quietly.

Who knows? Lightning could strike and Abraham’s media buy could possibly prompt Republican donors to take a second look at the Abraham for Governor campaign. It might even lead to some sizable contributions. That’s assuming, of course, there’s someone in the Abraham camp who can craft a message appealing to the voters that Abraham, or Rispone, must have on election day. That would be Trump voters.

A bold move by Abraham would have another effect. It would force Rispone’s hand because Rispone — assuming he’s a serious candidate — could not allow Abraham to seize the mantle as the Republican in the race.

Yet until Abraham or Rispone makes a move, Edwards can remain on cruise control and count himself as the luckiest incumbent governor in Louisiana since Mike Foster swatted William Jefferson in 1999.

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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