SADOW: Rispone’s “We Can Do Better Than John Bel Edwards” Narrative Rings Hollow Now

Now we have our answer about Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone: it’s more than about doing better than Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

When businessman Rispone formally announced his candidacy almost a year ago, he explained that he entered the contest because “we can do better” than Edwards. A longtime and major contributor to conservative causes and candidates, Rispone entered the race first as other major GOP potential contestants dithered. Eventually, only Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham took the plunge.

Noted then, given the large amount of personal resources he could commit to the effort, was he effectively could expose Edwards as an old-style, big-government populist out of step with the Louisiana majority on a majority of issues. Edwards won in 2015 only because of fratricide among strong Republican candidates and, without a very visible record, then could obscure this reality.

So, if in fact Rispone entered the contest and conducted his candidacy mainly to ensure that a better candidate defeated Edwards, he would do the state a great service, as well as boost Republicans by putting one of their own in the office by not participating in the kind of circular firing squad that robbed the party of the office in the first place. This would require him to concentrate on Edwards’ record and lauding his own credentials, with of course the goal of him emerging as the winner. But if somebody else won, at least he would accomplish the objective of “better than Edwards.”

If that ever had been his goal, he abandoned it this week with an ad campaign attacking Abraham. One repeated a largely forgettable meme forwarded by Edwards that Abraham missed too many votes in Congress while campaigning with the absurd implication he would take the job of governor too lightly. The other highlighted critical comments Abraham made about GOP Pres. Donald Trump prior to the president becoming his party’s 2016 nominee, even as Abraham and Trump have a good working relationship; Rispone has tried to position himself as the Louisiana version of Trump on the issues and in political outsider status.

Theoretically, both ads in different ways should help Rispone, but they won’t. Rispone may gamble that the rehashed one it will peel (a handful of) votes from Abraham, but these just as easily could make their way to Edwards for people not enamored with Rispone’s posturing as Trump and even could turn off some of his own voters over disgust that Rispone would echo such meaningless fluff. The other won’t benefit Edwards at all but risks backfiring from similar disgust. As a result, Rispone will net little, if anything, from turning fire onto Abraham.

But the larger point is that for the Louisiana electorate to revert to a normal vote that doesn’t give a politician like Edwards a chance on the issues it must see Edwards for what he is. Directing resources against another candidate largely like you on the issues doesn’t do that, if your goal truly is to prevent the Edwards agenda from a chance of its moving forward. In the final analysis, we find that Rispone either didn’t tell the truth last year or has succumbed to vanity that has turned himself into the 2019 version of ex-statewide candidate Rob Maness: this ad buy shows he’s not so concerned about the state doing better than Edwards, but that it elect Rispone at all costs.

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