I am not sure how many times I need to say it amid Eddie Rispone and Ralph Abraham’s so-far-uninspiring efforts to unseat John Bel Edwards, but we’re going to keep going over it until we get it right: The best way for Republicans to lose 2019 is to take Louisiana’s status as a red state for granted and assume there will be a run-off.
Eddie Rispone’s campaign appears to have not learned any of the lessons of 2015, nor has the campaign learned the lessons of the polls from last week and, if rumor is correct, the polls to come. A simple look at 2015 would indicate that Republican in-fighting only serves to make the Democrat look better and makes the Democratic Party look more unified. A look at the polls from last week, meanwhile, would indicate that Rispone’s current messaging simply isn’t working.
While Scott McKay has done a pretty good job already of hitting Eddie Rispone’s campaign for the rather dumb decision to drop a weak anti-Abraham ad in this primary, the ad is a symptom of Rispone’s problem rather than the cause.
From the start, Rispone has spent entirely too much time touting how much of a Trump guy he is and how he’s not going to worry about the politically correct liberals and focus on sanctuary cities. He was late to the party on getting ads out there, despite a massive, self-funded war chest, and he focused too much on trying to build himself up as the Trump conservative Louisiana needs.
Even a casual observer of Louisiana politics can see the problems here. The issues affecting Louisiana right now are not anti-Trump politics, illegal immigration, or political correctness. It’s about the spending issues rampant in a supposedly Republican legislature and the outright destructive policies coming out of the Democrat governor’s office. At a time when Trump’s economy is creating jobs, Louisiana is losing far more than it’s creating. The net population is shrinking, and the biggest industries in the state are being targeted by Edwards’ allies through lawsuits in order to run them out.
As a businessman, and as a campaign billing itself as a businessman’s campaign, Rispone should have been talking about bringing businesses back to Louisiana, and he should have been doing it from day one. He should be running ads that show Louisiana families packing up and heading to Texas because they can’t work in the state anymore. There should be recorded interviews with families who have up and left. He’s a job creator, right? He can talk about how to get these people back.
But the campaign has been utterly mismanaged, making the same mistake our national media makes on a near-constant basis: They want to make everything political somehow tied to Trump.
Trump isn’t a black and white issue in the state. His approval is at 54% in Louisiana – the same as Edwards’ approval, by the way – meaning that allegiance to Trump is not going to be the deciding factor here. Yes, Trump won by a large margin in 2016, but that’s three-year-old data now. The most recent data shows that the people of Louisiana aren’t as focused on the national personalities so much as they’re concerned with what’s going on at home.
Believe me, I want to see Abraham doing better on this front as well. I don’t care so much about his voting record as it pertains to Trump. I want to know how he will fix the issues the state is going through. He’s done better than Rispone, but there is almost nothing challenging Edwards in any meaningful way from either campaign. That’s mismanagement on the part of campaign staff, and it’s going to give us four more years of Edwards.
Four more years where he doesn’t have to run for re-election. He won’t be encumbered by issues of electability. He can go full-on liberal in every way, and he knows he has the legislative allies to make his policies a reality. So, if that’s what Rispone wants, he needs to keep his campaign staff just like it is and make no changes. If he wants to actually have a chance to help the state, even if he can’t win, then he needs to make some changes and get the messaging right.