Wishful thinking or just clumsy analysis? What to make of observers who think Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards could win reelection outright on Oct. 12?
Earlier this month, State Civil Service Commissioner Scott Hughes, when asked by the hosts of a Shreveport talk show about Edwards’ chances to do this, said he thought it could happen. Hughes was appointed to the SCSC by Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Last week, in an opinion piece that went over considerable ground, independent journalist Jeremy Alford drew upon history to argue that odds were against Edwards on this, but that it could happen. Unlike Hughes who apparently went on gut instinct, Alford took a census of insiders and reviewed past election results to draw his conclusion.
But it seemed neither employed an obvious source of data – polling. And, according to the polling, only a massive change in election dynamics gives Edwards any chance to hit this mark, which Alford reports the governor’s camp dearly wishes because they see his position worse off having to go to a runoff.
Not a single of several polls has shown Edwards even close to achieving a majority against major competitors Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham and Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Only one pollster even would go out on a limb, using his results, to predict Edwards could achieve that mark on Oct. 12 – and, as previously noted, that poll had a questionable sampling frame.
Keep in mind as well that no public polling of the contest has occurred since both GOP major candidates began statewide broadcast media advertising, nor any since qualifying closed. As noted previously, the dynamics of qualifying broke poorly for Edwards, particularly with the emergence of black Democrat Omar Dantzler who appears willing to put as much effort into campaigning as others who recently have scored significant proportions of voters in statewide campaigns and of the novelty candidacy of “Go” Gary Landrieu.
Alford noted this, and figures also-ran candidates could cop 7 percent of the vote. In fact, that’s probably low; Dantzler and Landrieu combined likely will hit that. The other minor contestants likely will rack up at least a couple of percentage points among themselves, and, altogether, almost all of these votes will come at Edwards’ expense and not many will show up in a runoff.
Using past results of wealthy amateur candidates, Alford thinks Rispone can grab at least 11 percent. That crude analysis, however, doesn’t take the context of this election into account relative to those of the past, with those examples featuring a greater number of significant candidates; this one has but three. However, that number isn’t very out of line compared to polling to this point, which would suggest Rispone should go twice as high once the undecided voters (many of these between Abraham and Rispone who have no intention of voting for Edwards) at present shake out.
A comparison with “gubernatorial candidates from north Louisiana that either served in Congress or other high-ranking offices” – a crude indicator to say the least – nets Abraham 15 percent under Alford’s calculation. Again, this ignores contest context by analyzing fields with at least twice as many significant candidates and is skewed heavily by (then) Democrat former Gov. Buddy Roemer’s 33 percent in 1987.
Yet if any election could serve as a model for 2019, that one might best fit the bill: north Louisiana conservative reformer against liberal incumbent. This incumbent Edwards isn’t as unpopular as incumbent Democrat former Gov. Edwin Edwards then, but Roemer had to fight off three other significant challengers to that Edwards while Abraham only has to beat back Rispone vying against this Edwards. Consider twice that 15 percent as the floor for Abraham – which polling to date has confirmed – with Roemer’s total even more likely.
Add up all these numbers and Edwards pulls no better than 38 percent, which makes him toast in a runoff. Even if Abraham draws only 30, Rispone only 15, and all minor candidates remain at 7 – this probably the absolute floor for all – Edwards still can’t triumph.
Even making generous assumptions, Edwards can’t win in the general election. To repeat, unless something wacky happens to change election dynamics, this is going to a runoff. Attempts to convince people otherwise smack of unsophisticated and unrealistic analysis or trying to will a certain result.