Abraham’s Touting A New Poll Which Has Him Leading Rispone

One thing we noticed from reviewing the Southern Media and Opinion Research poll on the Louisiana governor’s race yesterday was that it would appear despite a torrent of ads on television across the state in the past month Eddie Rispone might be hitting something of a wall in terms of his momentum in the race, and Rispone may have built himself a ceiling which is too low to catch Ralph Abraham.

We came to that impression, which doesn’t yet rise to the level of a judgement since there isn’t complete data on the question, from a couple of data points. First was that the SMOR poll had Rispone at only 16 percent. That’s a number three points below the 19 percent the Baton Rouge industrial contractor polled in the Verne Kennedy survey done in mid-August. Now, it’s not really scientific to make poll comparisons across different pollsters, as sampling and other methodology can differ. But with three weeks between the Kennedy poll and Bernie Pinsonat’s poll released this week, and a very heavy diet of TV ads by Rispone in that time frame, one would have expected Rispone’s numbers to have risen, rather than to have declined, in polling even across different pollsters.

The other item in Pinsonat’s poll which was a concern for Rispone’s camp is that he’s under water on approval, with 37 percent favorable and 43 percent unfavorable. Having spent more money than anybody else in the race, that isn’t a number he would want.

And yesterday, Ralph Abraham’s camp released the results of a Remington Research poll it’s calling an independent survey of the race which contains some similarities to the numbers SMOR released. Those similarities seem to corroborate some of our impressions from the Pinsonat poll.

The Remington numbers in the October 12 primary race are as follows:

John Bel Edwards: 45 percent
Ralph Abraham: 27 percent
Eddie Rispone: 19 percent
Gary Landrieu: 2 percent
Omar Dantzler: 0 percent
Others: 1 percent
Undecided: 6 percent

The guess here is Dantzler will pick up at least a couple of points as we get closer to Election Day simply because he’s the black Democrat in the race and he’s spending a little bit of money to let folks know that. Otherwise, it’s a similar poll to the SMOR survey from a results standpoint – Edwards is at 45 instead of 47 in this one, and Abraham is at 27 rather than the 24 he held in the SMOR poll. Rispone is at 19 rather than 16. The margin of error in this poll is 2.9 percent, so the fluctuations are more or less within that margin.

But the case for Rispone hitting a ceiling of sorts holds, if you compare his 19 percent in this poll to the 19 percent in the Verne Kennedy poll in mid-August. Having spent all that money he should be above 20, and he isn’t.

Something else interesting is Rispone’s approval, which was underwater in the Pinsonat poll by a 37-43 margin. Rispone is underwater 31-41 on approval in the Remington poll.

None of this is definitive, mind you. It’s just not a good sign if you’re Rispone. It’s an indication that your campaign strategy hasn’t worked as well as you expected, and that would have to be disappointing seeing as though that strategy was built on the basis of very expensive data modeling and poll testing.

Abraham’s camp sounded a triumphant note in their press release about the poll…

With two weeks to go before voting begins, Ralph Abraham maintains a commanding lead over his Republican challenger and is headed toward a runoff with Governor Edwards. Abraham maintains his lead despite being outspent by a 10-to-1 margin on broadcast TV, cable TV, and radio advertising by his Republican opponent, Governor Edwards, and Governor Edwards’ SuperPAC.

A poll commissioned in mid-July showed Abraham held a 12-point lead (25% to 13%) over his Republican opponent. Since that time, Abraham spent $657,755 on broadcast TV, cable TV, and radio advertising, while his Republican opponent spent $3,424,182.

According to a new poll completed yesterday (September 11, 2019), Abraham holds an 8-point lead over his Republican opponent (27%-19%).

In the same September poll, Edwards comes in at 45%, well below the required 50% required to avoid a runoff, after spending $4,825,197 on broadcast TV, cable TV, and radio advertising between his campaign and PAC.

“Despite over eight million dollars being spent against us, the race remains virtually the same as it was at the beginning of summer. Ralph Abraham will be in a runoff with John Bel Edwards and Ralph Abraham will win.” – Lionel Rainey III, Abraham Campaign Senior Strategist

We’d say to tap the brakes on talking about “commanding leads” at this point, as an eight-point lead isn’t really commanding. It’s solid, of course, and given the vast disparity between what Rispone and Edwards have spent and the $650K Abraham has spent his camp is justified in believing they’ve largely weathered the storm.

But if we’re in Abraham’s camp we’re not crazy about being 18 points down to Edwards even if we know we’re going to make that up in the runoff by uniting the GOP vote. Edwards, after all, still has more than $5 million left in the bank with a month left to go. To reel in that 18 points is a lot bigger project for Abraham than to put Rispone away, particularly if there is truth in the idea Rispone has peaked.

And we’re going to say it’s too soon to know that’s a fact anyway, though we might know it within 10 days or so if more poll numbers confirm it.

Perhaps our biggest takeaway from this poll is the continuing importance of keeping focus on Edwards, and how crucial for Louisiana’s future it is to get him out of the governor’s mansion. Third parties are working on that – for example, yesterday the LAGOP debuted a new website at FireJBE.com which catalogs the various scandals and failures of this governor, and plans to message the heck out of that narrative, and the RGA continues to air TV spots beating Edwards up for his economic record. But the campaigns are going to need to do it as well, and neither one have made tearing down Edwards’ approval rating and re-elect numbers (the Remington poll had Edwards at 49-39 on approval and 48-44 on re-elect, which aren’t great but they’re not catastrophic either, and with a record like he has they should be down the tubes) their primary focus.

It’s time for that to change. Perhaps particularly where Rispone is concerned. He’s hinted at how Louisiana needs to do a better job of growing its economy, which as a businessman he’s qualified to do, but it would be a good idea for him to turn up the volume on how badly change is needed.

What we really, really don’t need, and hopefully neither of these candidates goes there, is for Abraham and Rispone to start attacking each other. This poll shows them combining for a 46-45 advantage over Edwards, which means this race is winnable if the GOP vote is unified. That’s less assured if this race devolves late into a facsimile of the 2015 mess.

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