Are Rispone’s Attacks On Abraham Losing The LAGOV Race For The GOP In The Primary?

That is quite likely the eventuality we’re going to end up with. We didn’t believe it when those attacks aired last week (and continued with a furious regularity over the weekend, where the fratricide played out amid every commercial break in the college and pro football games on the tube, interspersed with Gumbo PAC’s “me too” attacks), but a new poll Eddie Rispone’s camp is touting makes it possible this thing really doesn’t make it to a runoff.

At least for now. Elections are dynamic things. We’ll get to that later.

Here’s the poll Rispone is touting…

JMC Analytics, which is headed up by our buddy John Couvillon, is the same polling firm responsible for the poll last week the Nexstar TV stations put out in advance of Thursday’s televised gubernatorial debate. One of two things are true about the fairly sizable swing in the numbers from the Nexstar poll, which had Edwards at 41, Abraham at 24 and Rispone at 16.

One possibility is Couvillon’s sampling and methodology are different depending on who’s paying him to do a given survey, which wouldn’t be great but could well be explainable if the check-writer had a strong opinion about who’s going to turn out (for example, we did a poll under the belief that Democrats won’t be more than 47 percent of the electorate this fall after seeing lots of other surveys in which they were 50 percent of the sample).

But the other is that there’s a rapidly shifting electorate based on an attack ad Rispone his Ralph Abraham with and a debate Rispone appeared to have won, perhaps, but that not all that many people saw. In the space of a week Abraham dropped six points, Rispone jumped five and Edwards jumped five between two polls by the same pollster. That would be at least somewhat unusual.

We’ll remain agnostic about which interpretation is true, though what we will say is if it’s the latter it’s a reason why Rispone needs to take that ad with these attacks down immediately. The ad, as crappy as it is, will have accomplished its objective of knocking Abraham down to where Rispone could catch him, and the longer it’s on the air the more people will (1) become sick of it and (2) start questioning the claims made in it.

Because almost all of these attacks are bullshit.

The St. Jude thing is pure garbage, as we’ve explained. Abraham pledged to donate his congressional salary to charity and did, for his first term – some $300,000 worth. But Congressional rules barred him from making a profit on his medical clinic, which meant he wouldn’t have any money coming in if he continued giving his salary away, so he dropped that pledge. He still gave lots of money to charity, just not his whole salary. This was asked and answered when Gumbo PAC first vomited forth that attack, and for Rispone’s campaign to copy Gumbo PAC attacks isn’t a good look.

And it gets worse, because the ad also attacks Abraham for buying a half-million dollar plane with St. Jude’s money. Of course, it wasn’t St. Jude’s money, it was Abraham’s money, and the half-million dollar plane he bought replaced another plane he’d owned since 2013.

And what did Abraham do with that plane? Well, this…

So we’re attacking somebody for buying a plane with his own money that he uses to fly people to hospitals to get treatment. That’s the quality of our political discourse now.

The ad also castigates Abraham for missing some 40 percent of the votes in Congress, when House Republican Whip Steve Scalise has already said Abraham hasn’t missed a vote Scalise has needed him for. It’s entirely possible Scalise will speak to this fairly soon, because from what we hear he isn’t happy at all about the missing-votes accusation and he’s also really unhappy about the accusation Abraham has voted with Nancy Pelosi 300 times. Because those are the votes in Congress which aren’t controversial. They’re the procedural votes and the courtesy votes, the ones which don’t make policy and get post offices and national parks named, and so on. And if Abraham has voted with Pelosi 300 times then so has Scalise, Mike Johnson, Clay Higgins and Garret Graves. It’s stupid to go there.

The accusation about Abraham calling for Trump to step down is true, and Abraham should have done a mea culpa on that to diffuse it. The circumstances of it don’t make him look all that bad, though – Abraham’s statement came following the release of the Access Hollywood “grab them by the p***y” tape, which practically everybody thought was the end of Trump’s presidential campaign. Abraham had a similar moment of weakness to lots of people, and he didn’t understand the full dynamics of the American electorate in 2016. Few did. When he called for Mike Pence to take over, he wasn’t out of the mainstream. But that was the only fall-off between Abraham and Trump. It’s stupid to think Abraham is Bill Kristol over that one moment of weakness.

Couvillon’s poll summary says the latter interpretation, the one indicating Edwards and Rispone are surging at Abraham’s expense, is the one to take from his two polls.

JMC Analytics and Polling was commissioned to conduct this poll for the Louisiana Association of Health Plans. There are three main takeaways from this poll: (1) in the past week, the basic contours of the race have shifted, (2) Governor Edwards’ has added to his lead, while a late surge towards Rispone has enabled him to move past Congressman Ralph Abraham, and (3) the pool of undecideds is shrinking.

Governor Edwards has, with the benefit of white and black Democrats’ “coming home”, moved closer to the 50% mark needed to avoid a runoff, while fellow Democrat Omar Dantzler still polls at 2%. More specifically, in the last week, Governor Edwards’ share of the black vote has risen from 69 to 78% (80% if undecided “leaners” are included). Similarly, his share of white Democrats has increased from 47 to 60% (62% if undecided “leaners” are included), and he’s holding his own among both white Independents (33% last week and 34% in this poll whether or not “leaners” are included) and Republicans (17% last week, 16% in this poll/19% if “leaners” are included).

Can Governor Edwards win in the first primary? While the data didn’t show this to be a possibility last week, it is in the realm of possibility now: if you combine Governor Edwards’ 48% (“leaners” included) with undecided African-Americans (2% of the electorate), the sum total of those two items puts him precisely at 50% before taking into account any vote loss from Dantzler’s candidacy. Meanwhile, the combined Republican vote, when combined with undecided Republicans, represents 43% of the electorate.

If he’s right, then what Rispone has done is to earn an extremely empty victory – he’s in second behind a runaway winner who gets a majority in the primary. Which is not something anyone will remember him fondly for. Just ask Scott Angelle, who Rispone will surely draw comparisons to. Or if Rispone does manage to get into a runoff, he’ll then be faced with the same problem David Vitter was faced with in 2015 – how do you get that 18 percent of the vote to line up behind you after you’ve unfairly trashed their candidate? Better get those knee pads out.

There is good news to be found here, though, which is that something will happen this week quite likely to shake loose some of that support for Edwards. When it does, know that neither campaign had much of anything to do with it; nor did the national Republican party, which has played a nonexistent role in shaping this race so that one of the GOP candidates could win it.

But nobody should be happy about this race so far. This experience has been the best exposition yet of why Louisiana is at the bottom of all the public policy metric rankings – stupid politics, crappy leadership and an electorate which has given up on anything ever getting better.

UPDATE: Abraham’s campaign put out a response to the poll which makes some valid points…

It’s September, which means we’ve entered election silly season.

This morning, John Couvillon released a survey of 550 registered voters that shows a dramatic shift in the race for Governor. The survey was conducted from September 19th to 21st of a population “registered to vote in the state of Louisiana,” Less than a month out from the election, you would expect research to at least have a likely voter screen.

Mr. Couvillon was commissioned to conduct a poll that ran just one day prior – from September 14th to September 17th – that was highlighted on the night of the first Gubernatorial Debate on September 19. This survey showed a completely different race with Ralph Abraham holding an 8-point lead over Eddie Rispone: 24-16.

Two polls, same pollster, one day apart, with two completely different results. The reality is the race didn’t change by 11 points on the ONE DAY between these two polls.

Let’s pretend for a second that there’s any validity in this fantasy-land survey – what we would see is that Eddie’s rise in the polls is also directly correlated to a rise by Governor Edwards.

That is – if Eddie really did jump from 16 to 21 – he also pushed the Governor to 46% (from 41%) and Mr. Couvillon lays out a scenario where the Governor could reach 50% in the primary.

From the first day of this race, every single Republican in Louisiana understood that in-party fighting would be the only thing that could propel John Bel Edwards to a victory. Mr. Rispone made the decision to ignore those warnings and launched a dishonest attack against Ralph Abraham. Ralph Abraham, on the other hand, made the decision to not attack in response but to remain focused on John Bel Edwards. Ralph Abraham is literally holding the Republican party together by his decision not to launch an attack on Eddie Rispone, instead responding with his new TV ad, “We’re Winning.”

Ralph Abraham remains the only candidate positioned to actually defeat John Bel Edwards in November. Our data and analytics continue to actually show us positioned to make the runoff and our plan for the next three weeks will only solidify our place in the runoff.

-Bill Skelly, Abraham campaign Senior Strategist & Data Analyst

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