Sam Hanna Jr.

If voter turnout during the first couple of days of early voting is any indication, Gov. John Bel Edwards has a problem on his hands.

A big one.

While overall voter turnout on the first day of early voting Saturday was almost as impressive as the first day of early voting for the 2016 presidential race, which was a record-setter, Edwards’ base of support — black voters — only represented some 24.7 of the votes cast. That’s far short of the 29 percent target the Edwards campaign needs to comfortably secure re-election in the Oct. 12 primary.

It should not be interpreted that early voting is the end-all in predicting voter turnout on election day. It gives us an idea, however, about which voters are motivated and which ones aren’t inspired by any of the candidates including the candidate we would assume the uninspired would support. Obviously, black voters weren’t very enthusiastic about turning out over the weekend.

No Democrat, including Edwards, needs to be told that in Louisiana the black vote is crucial for success. Because in the Deep South, any Democrat, including Edwards, can bank on capturing some 31 percent of the white vote. If he’s lucky, he could push that figure to 33 percent.

It’s simple arithmetic from there.

For example, if the black vote eventually accounts for 27 percent of the electorate once all the votes are counted on Oct. 12 and Edwards pulls just 31 percent of the white vote while locking up 95 percent of the black vote, Edwards would be headed toward a runoff with one of the two big Republicans in the race, Congressman Ralph Abraham or Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone. At this time, it’s Rispone who has the momentum between the two Republicans. The Abraham campaign is on life support and fading fast.

When the decision makers in the Edwards campaign were informed about the turnout numbers for the first day or two of early voting, you can rest assured someone got an earful and plans were put in place almost immediately to gin up the black vote over the last three days of early voting. The question is, will it be enough to push black voter turnout toward the magical 29 percent mark? Maybe, but I doubt it, which means the Edwards campaign and its like-minded organizations of support will push the envelope, so to speak, to ramp up turnout among black voters on Oct. 12. It’ll be a sight to behold.

It’s do or die time for Edwards, for a run-off with Rispone certainly would entice President Donald Trump to enter the fray. At that point, we wouldn’t hear much about Louisiana but we would hear plenty about how the Democrats — including Edwards — are trying impeach the president.

That, my friends, would drastically change the composition of the electorate in a Nov. 16 run-off, and it wouldn’t be to Edwards’ benefit.

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

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