Sam Hanna Jr.

Do you believe in miracles?

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a devout Catholic, probably does. He should, since it’s going to take a miracle or something close to it for Edwards to hold off Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone in the Nov. 16 gubernatorial election.

That’s the assessment from the cheap seats just days after Edwards — the only Democrat governor in the Deep South — pulled just 46.6 percent of the vote in Saturday’s primary election, largely because Edwards’ base of support — black voters — didn’t turn out to vote in sufficient numbers, or represented just 25.5 percent of the electorate. Edwards needed no less than a 29 percent showing among blacks to secure a second term void of a run-off.

Anyone and everyone who fancies himself an expert on Louisiana politics has an opinion about why black voters didn’t turn out in droves to re-elect a Democrat governor facing two Republicans, Rispone and Congressman Ralph Abraham. The fact of the matter is blacks simply weren’t motivated to go to the hilt for Edwards, for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, Rispone, the uber-wealthy businessman from Baton Rouge who has plowed no less than $11 million of his own money into his campaign for governor thus far, outdistanced Abraham, 27 percent to 24 percent respectively. Abraham was at a disadvantage from the get-go partly because he couldn’t raise the money to compete with Rispone’s spending power. Plus, his messaging wasn’t convincing.

In the weeks leading up to the primary election, it appeared Edwards was on solid footing to win it all in the primary, or at least that’s what Edwards’ allies were saying based on their own polling as well as polling conducted for so-called independent businessmen and the media. They were all wrong. Big-time. Or perhaps they all colluded to intimidate voters into voting for Edwards by continuously leaking to hanger-ons and gossipers and such that Edwards was polling at no less than 51 percent heading into the Oct. 12 election. In the final three days prior to the primary, Edwards was safely sitting on 52 percent, according to “sources” who said that’s what Edwards’ own pollster was saying. At least that was the fodder emanating out of Baton Rouge.

It was all bull****.

Ironically, the Edwards campaign issued a news release Monday saying Edwards’ own internal polling showed the governor was at 46 percent heading into the primary and held a 52 percent to 36 percent lead over Rispone if a run-off election were held today.

So, are we now to believe 46 is the new 52? Or is 52 the new 46? Take your pick.

Regardless of the spin, there’s no escaping what lies ahead for Edwards if he wishes to become the first Democrat governor in Louisiana to serve back-to-back terms since Edwin Edwards did it from 1972-1980. That is, he must dramatically improve the turn-out among black voters, and he must go shopping for votes among moderate whites in the suburbs of Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

For Rispone, he must nationalize the election by reminding voters that Edwards is a Democrat, and that it’s the Democrats who have waged a two and a half year battle to overturn the 2016 presidential election. Fact is, President Donald Trump will do it for him since the president has announced he’ll campaign for Rispone in Louisiana at least three times before the November election.

And regardless of what anyone is peddling, this election is a dead heat.

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

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