Breitbart Jumps On John Couvillon’s Poll; Are Their Conclusions Correct?

There seems to be an awful lot of buzz over the JMC Analytics poll released yesterday which showed Gov. John Bel Edwards getting just 38 percent in a three-way race with Rep. Ralph Abraham and ISC Constructors CEO Eddie Rispone, and getting no more than 41 percent in head-to-head races against Rispone (41-28 in Edwards’ favor) and Abraham (just 40-36 for Edwards). We heard it a good bit before and after our post about the poll yesterday, and there has been some national pickup on the poll.

Including from Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle, who goes perhaps further than we would in measuring the import of the survey.

A newly released poll of likely voters in Louisiana’s upcoming gubernatorial election found that Republican candidate Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA) is surging into a near statistical tie with incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, a potential sign of serious problems for the Democrats in a deep-red state that President Donald Trump will visit next week.

The upcoming governor’s race in the fall in Louisiana marks one of the biggest regularly scheduled general elections between now and November 2020, when President Trump will face off against whomever the Democrats nominate from their growing field of presidential candidates, now totaling more than 20.

Boyle had a conference call with Abraham’s staff, and heard their pitch for the state of the race…

Abraham’s campaign is thrilled to be this high in the polls thus far from the election. The election’s first round is in October, from which Abraham and Edwards are expected to head to a November runoff.

“The biggest takeaway from this poll is that Dr. Abraham is within the margin of error in a head-to-head match up with John Bel Edwards, despite having half the name recognition of the sitting Governor,” John Vick, Abraham’s campaign manager, said in a statement provided to Breitbart News. “As people get to know Doc, they choose him over Governor Edwards’ tax hikes and big government liberal policies. This is tremendous news for our campaign and we’re excited to keep introducing Dr. Abraham to Louisianians across the state.”

Abraham advisers Lionel Rainey and Bill Skelly also, in a conference call with Breitbart News on Wednesday, explained why this demonstrates they are well-positioned to take out Edwards in November.

“Basically what people are seeing here in the numbers, and the reason why we are closing so rapidly is that it is the second people see Abraham and hear his message they are all in,” Rainey, Abraham’s general consultant, told Breitbart News. “They see John Bel as a reflection of national Democrat policies in America, and we have one of the worst economies in the nation, and then they see Ralph Abraham as a representation of Trump and Trump’s economic policies and he can turn this thing around just like Trump has done on a national level.”

“The incumbent governor is under 50 percent,” Skelly, a veteran of President Trump’s data effort in 2016, added. “That’s a big deal. Not just a little under 50 percent. He is well under 50 percent headed into this. He has not consolidated the Democrat base based on what I saw. He still has to consolidate his own base.”

Abraham’s closeness with Trump in style and policy is helping lead to the boom in polling, his team says.

“[Trump] continues to be in a strong position in Louisiana, and Republicans in general continue to be in a strong position in Louisiana,” Skelly added. “Six out of 10 voters aren’t choosing John Bel Edwards for re-election right now–they’re looking somewhere else. Louisiana is still a red state, and Ralph Abraham is the only candidate who’s going to offer them a choice if they want someone else other than Edwards.”

Rainey added that part of why Edwards is sinking in the polls while Abraham is rising is because of the leftist policies that Edwards has pushed as governor.

“We’re one of the nation’s leading suppliers of oil and gas,” Rainey said. “John Bel Edwards, who is a trial lawyer, has gone on an anti-oil and gas crusade since he’s been in office–so much so that he has instructed our coastal parishes–which are our counties–to sue the oil and gas industry and if they didn’t he would. Under this governor, we have the worst economy in America–and it’s because he’s raised the most taxes of any state. We got I think the second highest tax rate now. And what you got is Abraham coming out and very simply mimicking what the president says–‘you want to get this thing moving? We’re going to cut taxes and create jobs.’”

We’ll agree with all of that, obviously, other than to restate our position that whichever Republican makes the runoff with Edwards is going to be Louisiana’s next governor (specifically, if Eddie Rispone should find a way to climb over Abraham he’d also win).

Abraham’s staff also sold the race to Boyle on its national import in advance of 2020…

Trump is headed to Louisiana next week for infrastructure events, and the fact that Abraham is doing so well in the governor’s race already is probably going to be a boost for Trump going into 2020 assuming Abraham can seal the deal and finish off Edwards in the general election runoff in November. If Abraham does take the governor’s mansion from Edwards in Louisiana, too, it could be a sign of things to come for Trump in 2020 nationally as the president seeks re-election from the same type of voters who sent him to the White House in 2016–and are doing much better thanks to his economic policies.

“This is the pre-game to Trump’s re-election,” Rainey said.

“The ability for Democrats to claim a victory in a red state is a talking point that the mainstream media is going to eat up into January and February when everyone is going to want to cover the horse race in the Democrat presidential primary,” Skelly added. “We have the ability to stop that momentum dead in its tracks.”

We’re not going to say any of that stuff about the national import of the race is outright wrong, but we would push back against it a little.

Namely, this – if John Bel Edwards does find a way to get re-elected in Louisiana it most certainly does not mean that Trump will lose the state next year. It also doesn’t mean Bill Cassidy would lose to a Democrat in next year’s Senate race.

There is zero indication any of the down-ballot statewide officials running for re-election this fall, every one of whom is a Republican, will have any trouble with Democrat contenders. Nor is there any indication of Democrat strength in legislative elections other than a fizzled attempt by a GOP candidate to win a special election in House District 18, a district in which Edwards carried two thirds of the vote in the 2015 runoff election, this spring.

In other words, the Democrats are absolutely not turning Louisiana blue this fall even if Edwards does win, and therefore this is a weak test case for Trump’s re-election.

That having been said, Couvillon’s poll gives a pretty good indication things may go the opposite way. Because an Edwards defeat would likely come with a Republican sweep of the other statewide races and it would be a good bet such a result would come with a red tide in legislative races as well, and that would naturally be interpreted as a slamming of the door on Democrat hopes in the Bayou State in 2020, perhaps in advance of similar results around the South.

Our point is those hopes were always pretty faint, so there isn’t a lot of reason to hype this race as something it’s not. And Louisiana’s statewide races aren’t great bellwethers for the rest of the South, either. Edwards’ election in 2015 wasn’t exactly the start of a Dixie Democrat resurgence in 2016, after all.

And we don’t really see a lot of national issues turning the Louisiana gubernatorial election. Those very seldom do make a difference here. Tax policy will be on the table, sure, and maybe some social issues will be – though Edwards has said all the right words on abortion and religion and the like. But it’s going to be local stuff like infrastructure, car insurance, Edwards’ Medicaid expansion, Louisiana’s economic competitiveness, outmigration, the oil and gas/coastal lawsuit issue and a few other things we talk about often here at the site which will matter most – and few of those will resonate much outside of Louisiana as a microcosm of the national political scene informing the 2020 election.

We’ll leave you with one takeaway from the JMC poll we didn’t talk about yesterday, something which is really stark in illuminating just how vulnerable Edwards is this fall. Namely, he can’t get over 50 against either Abraham or Rispone in any of the state’s major markets.

Here, from the crosstabs of the poll, is the three-way race broken out by region…

You’ll see that Abraham gets to 50 in Alexandria and Monroe, both of which are in his congressional district, but the best Edwards can do is 46 percent in the New Orleans area. Obviously it’s more helpful to be at 46 in the more-populous New Orleans market than at 50 in Alexandria or 55 in Monroe, but you can’t really call those numbers strength for an incumbent.

Particularly when that incumbent is running around talking about how he’s going to win this thing in the primary.

Here’s the head-to-head between Edwards and Abraham, broken out by region…

Again, Abraham is now over 50 in Alexandria and Monroe, and Edwards can’t get over 50 anywhere. He’s only at 49 in the New Orleans area in a head-to-head race, which is a weak number – let’s remember that while Edwards clobbered David Vitter as expected in Orleans Parish in the 2015 runoff, he also beat Vitter with 51 percent of the vote in Jefferson Parish. For him not to be over 50 against Abraham could be suggestive that he’s lost ground in that critical battlefront.

And here’s Edwards against Rispone, broken out by region…

Obviously these numbers look better for Edwards than do the previous two sets, but he’s only getting to 50 in the New Orleans area. And the fact that Edwards isn’t even beating Rispone in Shreveport is a really bad sign – not just for Edwards’ re-election but also for some of his allies in the legislature up that way (Ryan Gatti being a good example).

For Abraham, obviously, the Breitbart piece is a bit of a windfall. It bolsters his camp’s narrative that they’re in a good position to win the race and flip a governor’s mansion from D to R, and it gives them a hook to use in fundraising – which, with both Edwards and Rispone both holding more than $10 million and Abraham sitting a little over $1 million in cash on hand as of the latest finance reports, they could use a little help with.

Rispone’s camp isn’t going to be dissuaded by that poll, though, as they’ll tell you the whole race will flip over once they unleash their war chest onto the airwaves, which will happen relatively soon.

Either way, there is a sense building that fewer and fewer people are buying the inevitability of Edwards’ re-election. And if that continues you will see some interesting political developments both as the current legislative session moves toward its end and when campaign season begins in earnest this summer.

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