LAGOV Notebook: Rispone’s Best Ad Yet, JBE’s Worst, And Abraham Racks Up Endorsements

Just a few quick things keeping up with the Louisiana gubernatorial campaign as it meanders toward the Oct. 12 jungle primary.

Watchers of football this weekend might well have seen a pair of ads debuting last week by the two “money” players in the race, specifically Eddie Rispone and the incumbent John Bel Edwards.

Rispone’s new spot is the one lots of people expected to see from him months ago. It’s a biographical ad telling a condensed version of his life story, and it establishes him as a poor North Baton Rouge boy made good…

That’s a very good framing of Rispone as a candidate, particularly in Louisiana. Political tradition in this state, to its discredit, doesn’t hold that “successful businessman” is a particularly desirable descriptor of a winning candidate for office. One of the lasting negative legacies of Huey Long is a deep-seated antipathy toward the rich guy on a hill, and so if you’re a self-funding candidate in a major race you’d better have a way to mitigate that and make yourself different.

Which Rispone does. He’s self-made. He’s not some guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth – he worked his way up. This spot makes that clear, and it will ingratiate him with some voters who would otherwise dismiss him as an out-of-touch millionaire.

Rispone’s ads have gotten progressively better since his first two which contained little substance other than that he supports President Trump. He hasn’t aired an ad which resonates quite as much with social media and water-cooler conversations as the last two that Ralph Abraham dropped, but on the other hand Rispone is countering that by blowing Abraham out of the water in terms of airtime. You can do that when you’re sitting on a $10 million war chest.

We’ll find out if the volume of one’s messaging can overcome its quality on Election Day.

Meanwhile, John Bel Edwards’ campaign assaulted the people of Louisiana over the weekend with quite possibly the most nakedly dishonest political ad in American history…

The claims made in the ad are factual, but in context they’re 180 degrees from the truth. Edwards is yapping about the state’s unemployment rate dropping – but unemployment has dropped across the country, as the Trump economy has replaced the Obama economy. Also, you don’t get credit for low unemployment when it comes as a result of your workforce leaving the state for better opportunities, as has been the case the past three years when Edwards has run off 68,000 more people than have moved in.

As Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister noted, Louisiana has dipped below 2 million people holding jobs on Edwards’ watch. For him to run around claiming credit for some sort of economic renaissance when he’s the only governor in America who can’t grow jobs in the Trump economy makes him one of the most bald-faced liars ever to dirty the political stage.

As for Abraham, he popped out an ad of his own which refuted Edwards’ claims of economic success in football terms…


A week ago Rispone debuted a spot, which was still running over the weekend, talking about the necessity of having Louisiana be first in jobs as well as football – so the season is certainly weighing heavily on the campaign.

We might just offer an endorsement for the first of these two Republicans to call Edwards the Curley Hallman of Louisiana governors.

Something else out of Abraham’s camp is that he seems to be consolidating support within Louisiana’s Republican establishment. Specifically, the Republican Parish Executive Committees across Louisiana.

Last week Abraham picked up endorsements from the Bossier Parish Republican Executive Committee, the Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee, and the Richland Parish Chamber of Commerce. He’d nailed down an endorsement from the RPEC’s in St. Charles Parish, Jefferson Parish and Rapides Parish.

The state GOP double-endorsed both Rispone and Abraham last week, the only double endorsement the party has made this cycle. That was a decision identical to the one LABI’s political action committees made, and there is a bit of buzz about it as some voters are looking for guidance as to which one of the two they should vote for. That both LABI and the LAGOP don’t have a side yet is a good indication of how this race hasn’t shaken out so far.

But there is little question if you compare endorsements from the two that Abraham seems to be building a better institutional ground game, if that’s to be defined by the local organizations and political figures his campaign is lining up. The Rispone-Abraham matchup is increasing one pitting an air war against a ground game. Typically in Louisiana the ground game wins, but that doesn’t necessarily hold for this cycle.

And we’ll know a lot more this week when fresh fundraising numbers are released, as those will tell us whether any shifts in the flow of money have taken place.



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