Sam Hanna Jr.

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Earlier this week, Baton Rouge businessman and gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone went on the offensive with new television commercials whacking his primary opponents, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and Congressman Ralph Abraham, a Republican like Rispone.

Rispone’s volley aimed at Edwards focused on crime and sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, of which New Orleans is one of them. Rispone says he’ll outlaw sanctuary cities if he’s elected governor and of course, he’ll do something about crime, too.

All in all, Rispone’s attack ad on Edwards was what we should expect from a Republican who’s opposing a Democrat in any election, particularly a statewide race in the Deep South. Democrats like Edwards, whether they like it or not, are vulnerable on crime, illegal immigrants and taxes. Gun rights, too.

That’s the case because Democrats nationally seem singularly focused on releasing hardened criminals from prison, opening the borders to any and all illegal immigrants and raising taxes to fuel the latest greatest welfare program such as universal health care. Lately, Democrats declared they will go door to door across the country to seize guns from rightful gun owners as soon as Democrats take complete control of the White House and the Congress. Though Edwards at times portrays himself as a centrist, what Democrats do on the national stage is wrapped around his neck. Whether he likes it or not.

In the 2015 governor’s race, Edwards benefitted tremendously from Republicans attacking Republicans, especially the attacks on then-candidate David Vitter, who Edwards defeated in a run-off. A pro-Edwards political action committee (PAC) did most of the dirty work, but then-Republican candidates Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne, who finished third and fourth respectively in the primary election, didn’t do Vitter any favors when they refused to endorse him in his match-up with Edwards. In fact, Dardenne endorsed Edwards and now serves as his commissioner of administration.

Some political pundits claim Edwards owes his election in 2015 to Republican infighting, though they seem to forget Vitter was a flawed candidate from the get-go.

But ever since the fiasco of four years ago, Republicans, particularly the party’s leadership in Louisiana, have vowed not to make the same mistakes again.

Until this week, Abraham and Rispone had largely steered clear of criticizing one another and focused their fire power at Edwards. That, of course, changed Tuesday when Rispone unveiled a blistering attack ad on Abraham, highlighting Abraham’s lukewarm support for President Trump, his missing votes in the Congress while away running for governor and over the mess of Abraham not donating his entire congressional salary to charity, which he had pledged to do when he first was a candidate for the 5th District congressional seat in 2014.

Take Rispone’s broadside and layer it on top of television commercials paid for by a pro-Edwards PAC that knocked Abraham over the salary-for-charity flap and very quickly voters might get the impression that the congressman is not as honest and pure as he would have the electorate believe. All of a sudden, Abraham’s credibility, or lack thereof, becomes an issue.

Obviously that’s what Rispone’s hoping for, but he took a big gamble when he turned his attacks on Abraham. The big question is will Republicans abandon Abraham for Rispone or will they simply fall by the wayside and not vote altogether. It’s possible, too, that Republicans might take offense to Rispone attacking Abraham and double down on their support for the good doctor.

Again, Rispone rolled the dice.

Meanwhile, Edwards must be loving it. He’s been given an early Christmas present and that present represents another implosion among warring Republicans.

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

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