We’ve finally got a TV commercial from the Ralph Abraham campaign to show you, as this week Abraham’s air war commences. He has a $2 million ad buy scheduled for targeted markets around the state, and the first spot to air within that media campaign is this one…
Seems friendly enough.
We notice that Abraham and Eddie Rispone are both showing off big smiles in their ads, while John Bel Edwards doesn’t seem to be smiling quite as enthusiastically. There probably isn’t anything of note to read into that, but it struck us anyway. Maybe it has something to do with how much fun it is to be Louisiana’s governor – particularly if you’re going to perform at the level Edwards is.
Or maybe, as multiple posters here at the site have articulated, after qualifying for this fall’s elections Republicans can’t help but smile bigger than Democrats. This cycle is setting up quite well for a GOP rout.
Abraham’s path to the top of that rout remains a bit easier than that of Rispone’s – while the latter has already booked $5 million in spots on the airwaves and is all but monopolizing local TV around the state right now, one major disadvantage of a first-time candidate in a major election is the lack of a constituency. Nobody has voted for Rispone before and he doesn’t have a track record as an elected official. One addresses that by running as an outsider and talking about how career politicians never do anything worthwhile, a message which does attract voters. But even so, it’s still better to have run and won and earned the loyalty of some percentage of voters.
Which Abraham has. He garnered 149,000 votes in last November’s election for the 5th District congressional seat he’s occupied since 2015, and more or less every one of those people knew he was going to run for governor. That’s a voting base which, in an election where it’s expected there will be somewhere around 1.2 million ballots cast in October, gives him a heads-up of about 12.4 percent over Rispone.
The question is this – will Rispone’s ubiquitous TV ads, which based on the current numbers appear to be set to dwarf Abraham’s by a 2.5-to-1 margin, be enough to offset that built-in voting advantage?
We really don’t know. The guess here is it’s all about message.
Rispone’s campaign is the most poll-tested, scientific and scripted perhaps ever run in Louisiana. Rispone hired Tony Fabrizio, who was Donald Trump’s pollster, and Fabrizio built a predictive data model which has driven everything that campaign is doing. Rispone’s ads are built to push the buttons of the voting public and turn a maximum number of voters toward his camp even if people who aren’t the targets of his ads struggle to see how they’re relevant.
Abraham’s message so far, though it’s been delivered largely over social media rather than through paid campaign spots, has been a bit more targeted toward state issues. He’s also messaging in a much more conventional way as Louisiana elections go – blistering Gov. John Bel Edwards with attacks on the latter’s record and credibility, and doing so with pointed barbs and sound bites reminiscent of past Louisiana politicians.
Our theory of Louisiana elections has long been that the winners have usually been the ones who (1) have the most fun and (2) are the most entertaining. What we know about races here in the Bayou State is politics is a lot more art than science.
Then again, there are lots of things our theory of politics can’t really explain, so we’re open to a change in understanding. If Rispone’s poll-driven method produces a spot in the runoff, the entire nature of the state’s politics will likely change.
Abraham is betting that won’t happen. And as his ad makes quite clear, as of now the polls show he’s the Republican frontrunner to make the runoff. He doesn’t intend on that changing before October 12.