The easiest takeaway from the campaign finance reports covering activity from April through June, and the one we think might be the only takeaway of any importance in the Louisiana gubernatorial race, is this – Eddie Rispone, rather than Ralph Abraham, is going to play the dominant role in the question of which Republican will be in the runoff with John Bel Edwards and ultimately win.
We come to that conclusion because Rispone is the cash-on-hand leader with $9.8 million, while Edwards has $9.6 million in the bank and Abraham just $1.3 million.
Interestingly, Abraham was the leader in fundraising for the quarter, having reeled in $775,000. Rispone raised only $277,000, while Edwards was prevented from fundraising because of the state law barring him from doing so while the legislature was in session.
As the incumbent, one would expect that Edwards is poised to run away with the fundraising championship for the third quarter. Rispone doesn’t need to raise any more money. Abraham, who has a long way to go to match the war chests of his opponents, only put his fundraising committee together last month and announced six additional members to it yesterday…
- Dr. Wyche T. Coleman, III, Shreveport – Physician
- Paul Dickson, Shreveport – Morris and Dickson, LLC, President
- Scott Franklin, Rayville – Holly Ridge Rice, Partner
- Greg Hamer, Sr., Morgan City – B&G Foods Enterprises, LLC, CEO
- Roy O. Martin, III, Alexandria – Roy O. Martin Lumber Company, LLC, President & CEO
- Dr. Samer Shamieh, Covington – Physician, Avala Hospital
There are some big names among the six. Dickson and Martin are particularly well-known as max-dollar contributors in Louisiana races, and they have histories of bringing others with them.
Abraham’s campaign released a statement from Joe Canizaro, the co-chair of his fundraising board promising bigger things are coming. “All of us on the finance committee are fully committed to making sure that Ralph Abraham has every tool necessary to WIN THE GOVERNOR’s race this fall. A lack of funds will not be a problem for Ralph Abraham,” he said.
All of which is great, and if Abraham does make the runoff he won’t be short of money. Abraham has more money now than Edwards had at this stage four years ago, and once it became clear Edwards was going to make the runoff with a good chance to win he ended up with more money to work with than David Vitter, who was far and away the long-stacked favorite in that race.
Nevertheless, Abraham has a little more than $1 million to spend while Rispone has just under $10 million. That fact inescapably means that when Rispone brings that war chest to the battlefield and deploys it on the airwaves, the race could well come down to whether the voters buy in to his message.
Quite simply, if Rispone’s ads, when they hit TV’s and radios across the state, resonate with the public he will likely swamp Abraham and vault past him into the runoff. If they don’t, then Rispone will be another incarnation of the ill-fated Buddy Leach and John Georges self-funded campaigns.
It’s not that Abraham can’t carry a message, or that what he has to say won’t make a dent with the public. He’s done perfectly well so far in competing for news cycles, and earlier this week had a nice hit with his “I’ll buy their tickets” comment about the four Hard Left loons in Congress President Trump is currently at war with. Abraham is hovering around 30 percent in three-way polls of the race, while Rispone hasn’t yet cracked double figures, and Abraham’s campaign so far looks like the one having the most fun and gathering the most political support – a few days ago he picked up the endorsement of Craig Greene, the popular Public Service Commissioner whose district includes Baton Rouge, Houma and Lafayette.
But if your opponent has more than seven times your war chest and he wants to use all that money, his ads will drown yours out. That’s simple math. And if his ads are good, and people agree with them and are motivated by them to vote for him, he’s going to steal your support. Abraham’s camp would probably argue that he already has enough firm supporters who won’t be moved by Rispone’s messaging that he’ll be in the runoff anyway. And they might be right.
It’s a valid criticism that Rispone, who has even more cash available than that $9.8 million should he feel the need to write himself a check for it, could have drowned the state already with biographical ads to push his name recognition past Abraham’s and rob the Congressman of the ability to bank those supporters and hasn’t done so.
But if Rispone’s TV ads are good enough to make the electorate re-think the race, it won’t end up making a difference when he runs them – and he’s best served bunching them as close to the October primary as possible to prevent any countermessaging.
So it comes back to the question: are Rispone’s ads going to be good enough to move the vote?
If they aren’t, then Abraham can count himself lucky – because he’ll be in the runoff with Edwards, and when people see that he’s going to be the last Republican standing his fundraising will take off like a rocket.
Right now that’s where Abraham’s camp is, unless and until they can close the gap with Rispone with respect to the bank account.