A poll unconnected to any Louisiana gubernatorial campaign released earlier this week put him at 38 percent of the three-way vote for reelection Oct. 12, facing Republicans Rep. Ralph Abraham, who scored 23 percent, and businessman Eddie Rispone, who took in 7 percent. A subsequent pair of runoff questions had him drawing 40-36 over Abraham and 41-28 over Rispone, with the remainder undecided.
These numbers aren’t good for Edwards. An incumbent who has a good chance of winning pulls at least 45 percent of the vote in any given poll; one who doesn’t reach 40 percent is in serious trouble. This phenomenon reflects that undecided voters largely either don’t vote at all or break for challengers. Other indicators also point to trouble ahead for Edwards.
Considering Edwards captured 71 percent of the vote intention of blacks and 62 percent of Democrats, as blacks comprise almost 55 percent of Democrat registrants, that means he gets only half of white Democrats while his 32 percent haul of other registrants means he has about a quarter of whites in that segment (if we assume roughly half of these black others won’t vote and the remaining half vote for him). Worse, compared to Abraham in particular, his respondents disproportionately are the least likely to vote.
Worst of all, he doesn’t have much upside. About a quarter of blacks called themselves undecided at this point. Given that blacks typically vote in the 90-95 percent range for a Democrat who after three years they know is the incumbent and the matchup featured only Republicans as alternatives, an undecided black voter equates in most cases to a nonvoter. By contrast, white undecided voters are more likely to vote and vote for a challenger.
Essentially, if Edwards can get 90 percent of the 30 percent of the electorate that is black, he would need 35 percent of the white vote to get a simple majority. Only pulling at present half of the fifth of the electorate that is white Democrats plus a quarter of the 15 percent or so who are white other voters doesn’t get him close. He would have to make considerable inroads into the undecided vote, which runs against the field of play for an incumbent.
Edwards wins reelection only if his campaign can create a favorable turnout model. Elsewhere, Hayride publisher Scott McKay has delved into recent statewide election turnouts by registration and reviewed the assumptions made by polling in this contest. These contests have had Democrats turn out in a range from the mid-40s percent all the way up to 50 (including the two 2015 elections featuring Edwards), but in each higher instance Scott can point to convincing evidence that the 2019 round won’t feature past idiosyncratic factors. This poll assumed the lower end of the range.
With $10 million available in his campaign kitty, Edwards has the chance to skew a turnout model in his direction. But if he can’t induce half the electorate to be Democrats, he can’t win (even getting Democrats to 50 percent of the turnout is no guarantee he wins). The problem is combined his opponents have more than that, and when they begin mass media campaigning in earnest his chances of achieving a favorable model and convincing undecided voters diminish considerably.
The data continue to show saying Edwards is the favorite is a sucker’s bet at this point. He remains at best even-money to retain his job, with a greater likelihood of those chances falling rather than rising over the next five months.