JBE’s Pals Run A Skewed Poll, And Still Can’t Get Him Above 45 Percent

That’s the takeaway from the Democrat charter school group Education Reform Now Advocacy, which has already endorsed John Bel Edwards, and the release of its poll on the governor’s race this morning.

A new poll shows Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards with a significant lead over GOP opponents Congressman Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone, though few of those surveyed are yet familiar with the governor’s challengers.

The poll was commissioned by Education Reform Now Advocacy, a charter-school friendly group that generally supports Democrats, and conducted by LJR Custom Strategies.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Edwards if the election were held today, followed by 17 percent who would vote for Abraham and 4 percent for Rispone. Thirty-two percent were unsure and 1 percent would vote for someone else.

Fifty-three percent of the 600 likely voters who responded to the survey Jan. 14-27 identified as Democrats, 34 percent as Republicans and 13 percent as no party or other.

A 53 percent Democrat sample is a complete misrepresentation of Louisiana’s electorate, which given that LJR Custom Strategies has an office in New Orleans is an almost unforgivable sin by a pollster. By voter registration, Democrats make up only 43 percent of the voters in the state, while Republicans are 31 percent and independents are 27 percent. And by actual turnout in last’s fall’s congressional races and Secretary of State primary, Democrats were 45 percent of the vote, Republicans 36 percent and independents 19 percent. So they’ve oversampled Democrats by 10 full percent on voter registration and 8 percent on turnout, and Edwards only gets 45 percent of the vote.

It’s almost worse than that for Edwards.

The poll showed Edwards leading Abraham 47 percent to 27 percent in a head-to-head race and the governor leading Rispone 47 percent to 19 percent in a one-on-one matchup.

Fifty percent gave Edwards a positive job rating, double the number who gave him a negative rating, while they gave Abraham a 22 percent positive rating and Rispone a 10 percent positive job rating.

Abraham’s and Rispone’s approval ratings are skewed because they’re both still relatively unknown.

Abraham represents Louisiana’s sprawling 5th Congressional District with Monroe and Alexandria as its populations centers, while Rispone is a wealthy Baton Rouge businessman who has been particularly active in education reform and school choice.

Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said they either didn’t recognize Abraham’s name or didn’t know enough about the three-term congressman to rate him. That number was 56 percent with Rispone.

So in head-to-head competition with two challengers half or better than half of the electorate has never heard of, in front of a polling sample which overstuffs Democrats by 10 percent, John Bel Edwards is getting 47 percent of the vote against either one. That’s it.

Lionel Rainey, Abraham’s campaign consultant, trashed the poll – and rightly so.

“You know things are bad when the best the governor can tout is a poll — run by his own supporters — that shows fewer than half of Louisiana wants him back next year,” said Lionel Rainey III. “The people are tired of Edwards’ tax-and-spend administration, and Ralph is the clear conservative alternative.”

This is a skewed poll, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have value. It does. Normalize the sample against actual voting patterns and what you get is pretty similar to what other polls have said about the governor’s race.

Namely, that John Bel Edwards’ re-elect is in the low 40’s. With 8-10 percent less Democrats, he’s going to lose at least 5-6 percent of his number – and if he’s at 47 percent against Abraham and Rispone in a sample which is 53 percent Democrat he’s going to be at 41 or 42 in a more accurate sample.

But an organization which has already endorsed Edwards isn’t going to put out a poll showing him under 45 percent, because that’s a red flag that Edwards is a dead duck for re-election. So you goose the sample to make it look good.

It’s not like this poll is particularly good news for Abraham and Rispone, mind you – one or both of them should be further along toward reeling Edwards in than they are. But it’s only January, and neither one have really begun their campaigns in any real sense, nor are the state’s voters ready to really engage in the campaign. They’ve got time, and particularly in Rispone’s case he’s got plenty enough money, to make up that ground.

But what the poll says is the voters aren’t committed to John Bel Edwards, despite the best efforts of the pollster to present a facade of the reverse. Those votes are there to be had by a challenger. It’s up to Abraham and/or Rispone to have them.

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