…which would be a lower number than two previous surveys which measured the governor’s approval in the last three months.
Back in December, the quarterly Southern Media and Opinion Research poll had Edwards at a lofty 65 percent approval rating, which was a big number gaining Edwards lots of attention and putting lots of Republicans and conservatives in a state of depression around the holidays. One item of note in the SMOR poll, though, was that despite being a poll of likely voters its sample had the African-American share of the vote at 33 percent, which is six or seven percent higher than it typically is in a gubernatorial election cycle. That would translate, in a more typical electorate, into an approval rating of 60 or perhaps a bit below.
And in February, Morning Consult released its quarterly approval ratings of the nation’s governors with Edwards at a 56 percent approval rating for the fourth quarter of 2017. That made him the most popular Democrat governor in the country, and gave even more heartburn to Edwards’ critics.
But today Mason-Dixon’s numbers are out, from a poll with 625 registered voters responding between Tuesday and Thursday of last week, and they present a bit different picture of the governor’s political fortunes.
Mason Dixon Polling and Research, a Florida-based firm, shows Edwards with a 55 percent approval rating statewide, while 31 percent disapprove. Another 14 percent remain undecided.
Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, is most popular in southern Louisiana, according to the poll. In and around New Orleans, 61 percent of participant voters favor his performance, wither 54 percent approval in the Baton Rouge area. His favorability in North Louisiana is less prevalent, at 43 percent, while 42 percent in the region disapprove.
The governor enjoys heavy support among African-American voters, of which 79 percent approve, in the poll. Some 44 percent of white voters approve of the governor’s job, according to the findings.
Women polled view Edwards more favorably, with 61 percent. Among men, 48 percent support the governor’s performance.
This is the first public poll to test Edwards’ re-elect numbers in any way we’d regard as substantive, and they show something we’ve thought for a while – namely, that while his approval rating might not look problematic it’s a mile wide and an inch deep. That tends to be true of all Louisiana governors; for example, Bobby Jindal was in the high 70’s at one point, and considered such a political juggernaut that he was practically unopposed when he ran for re-election. But two years into his second term those ratings cratered and he spent the last year in office with an approval number in the 20’s. Edwards might have a little more loyal following among the state’s Democrats who know he’s the best shot they’re going to have to claim a statewide officeholder in the near future, but self-identified Democrat voters are nowhere near enough to get a majority on Election Day in this state.
And Mason-Dixon put three Republicans up against Edwards on re-elect test ballot questions. He didn’t do very well on any of them.
Against John Kennedy, Edwards polls ahead just 45-44. Against Steve Scalise he polls ahead 46-43. And against Ralph Abraham he polls ahead a bit better, 51-28.
Kennedy and Scalise have pretty close to 100 percent name recognition, so those numbers would indicate a race in a latter stage of development should either run against Edwards. And the rule is any incumbent under 50 in a head to head poll with a challenger is in trouble – typically the challenger is going to pull 80 percent of the undecideds. So a 45-44 number against Kennedy probably translates to Kennedy beating Edwards 52-48 or 53-47, if the election were today. A 46-43 number against Scalise translates to a 51-49 Scalise victory.
That’s if the election were today and Edwards’ approval rating doesn’t slide. Historically speaking, that slide is coming – all Louisiana governors eventually suffer from the irritation of the electorate, and it ought to be remembered that no Democrat has been re-elected governor here since Edwin Edwards in 1975. Not to mention that with Kennedy and Scalise there is a factor present in which the voters might be satisfied with both in the jobs they current have. Kennedy is a Senator, after all – in pretty much every other state in America it’s practically unheard of that a senator would come home to run for governor (the reverse happens all the time; for example, Rick Scott is going to run against Bill Nelson this fall in Florida, most observers say). And Scalise has an outstanding chance to move up to Speaker of the House if and when Paul Ryan decides he’s had his fill of that job. The poll doesn’t measure how much those factors might weigh in the numbers keeping them from being ahead of Edwards.
But Abraham shouldn’t be discouraged by his numbers against Edwards either.
Nobody really knows Abraham yet, which makes sense. He represents the state’s 5th Congressional District, which is the most rural and obscure of the six – the main media markets in LA-5 are Monroe and Alexandria, though the exurban environs of the Baton Rouge and New Orleans markets get a drive-by in the southern fingers of the district. That makes him a total unknown in the I-10/I-12 corridor where a Republican candidate has to thrive to win. So right now his numbers against a sitting governor with 100 percent name ID aren’t going to be any good. That’s the reason he’d be openly talking about running well more than a year before he’d normally announce – to gin up interest in a prospective campaign and get his name out.
The big number for Abraham is that despite the fact nobody knows who he is Edwards is only at 51 against him without so much as a single campaign spot being run yet. At 51, it’s practically nothing to knock Edwards below 50; the rest is all about building name ID and spreading a viable campaign message. That’s what a campaign is for, after all.
But average out those three Republicans against Edwards and you’re looking at a 47.3 percent re-elect number. That’s a rotten number for an incumbent who hasn’t even been campaigned against yet.
And since Mason-Dixon was in the field last week rather than this week, those numbers don’t take into account the utter collapse of the special session this week and the Legislative Black Caucus’ abandonment of the governor, or the other things we’ve talked about which indicate he’s headed for trouble – like the Sword of Damocles his criminal justice reform package represents, the utter failure of his Restore Louisiana flood recovery plan and the fiscal disaster his Medicaid expansion already is, something even his friends in the media won’t be able to hide for much longer.
Nevertheless, Edwards is still at a 55 percent approval rating. He can take solace in that.