It’s only February of 2018, so it would be a bit early for Rep. Ralph Abraham to announce he’s a candidate in the 2019 gubernatorial election. That didn’t stop him from taking the opportunity of an appearance at the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday to lay some groundwork for what looks like a fairly likely run against John Bel Edwards.
Our pal Robert Burns from Sound Off Louisiana was on hand and recorded about six minutes of Abraham’s appearance when he began talking about state politics and Edwards’ job performance, and here’s how that went…
“Louisiana deserves better than John Bel Edwards” is a pretty catchy declaration, and a statement bound to elicit an angry response from the governor’s people. It’s of a piece with Abraham’s bill filed last week to create a rural development fund that would bypass state capital outlay processes around the country which was another shot at the governor.
But there was more. Calling Edwards a liar based on his promise during the 2015 campaign not to raise taxes and his actions since which have involved nothing but demands for tax increases is an obvious attack on Edwards any candidate against him should repeat often; it isn’t like the governor has a defense to it. And there are good opportunities for messaging building on that point; at some point somebody will bring up Edwards’ campaign rhetoric about how he was a West Point cadet and a supposed adherent to its honor code admonishing those under its charge never to lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do – and then tie in the stories of sexual harasser Larry Anderson, bribe-taker Larry Bankston and a few other of Edwards’ associates into a narrative that Edwards sold Louisiana a bill of goods and has been an abject disaster since.
Abraham played around with some of those elements Monday. Here was another quote:
“The thing I hear more and more than anything else is just a lack of trust. To me, being a very simple country boy, that boils down to everything that is important.”
You can’t trust Gov. Honor Code? Wow.
Abraham was pressed, like every Republican politician who’s opposed Edwards’ tax increases, to identify where the state’s budget can be cut. It’s a valid question, and one which is going to be something of a touchy subject – there are cuts to be made, but not a single one which won’t be demonized as either cruel or ineffective as an exercise in fiscal discipline.
For example, Abraham made some very good points about Medicaid and the waste inherent in it when asked about areas of savings in the budget…
That’s invariably going to be trashed as a red herring, but there’s a key point to be made here. Namely, that Edwards had the opportunity to demand something better than the Brand X Soviet-style Medicaid expansion before he accepted it; the best choice would have been not to take the expansion at all, but at least Edwards could have asked for some arrangement similar to the one Arkansas made regarding Medicaid expansion. Instead, Louisiana has the most wasteful and ineffective Medicaid option possible, and plenty of it.
If Abraham wants to push this issue as an attack on Edwards he’ll want to offer lots of specifics and he’ll want to be prepared for a very unfriendly media treatment to come. He’s not a candidate yet, so he’s not getting the third degree from Edwards’ friends in the media. That’s going to change as his criticisms of the governor continue – and especially if he announces for governor in next year’s elections.