Are The Democrats Panicking About John Bel Edwards’ Re-Election Chances?

That’s a pretty good interpretation of what’s in the latest campaign finance disclosures, and in particular the one from Gumbo PAC, the Democrats’ repository of campaign cash for attack ads against Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone.

Gumbo PAC filed a special campaign report on Saturday, which political action committees and candidates file within 48 hours of taking donations close to an election day, and in that report several major donations are listed.

Two of them are noteworthy as donations from individuals. Former Enron official John Arnold, who lives in Houston and is a frequent Democrat donor in Louisiana races, ponied up $50,000 to Gumbo PAC, and Baton Rouge billboard lawyer Gordon McKernan also coughed up $25,000.

But two other donations look an awful lot like alarm bells going off as a reaction to Republican-heavy early voting numbers last week.

Specifically, there was the $1.2 million from the Democratic Governors’ Association to Gumbo PAC, and the $300,000 from the NEA Action Fund, the political action committee of the National Education Association, moving into the Gumbo PAC coffers.

That two Washington, DC-based national Democrat war chests would dump $1.5 million on Gumbo PAC a week from Saturday’s primary election isn’t altogether unprecedented, but it’s a very big number which would seem to indicate a couple of possibilities which are not exclusive to one another.

First is that the Democrats, and particularly Democrat operative Trey Ourso who runs the Gumbo PAC attack machine, plan to pull out all of the stops in an effort to destroy Abraham and Rispone. Our guess is that’s unlikely to work, as voters are beginning to get a bit fatigued with the attack ads on TV. If we’re to believe the latest JMC Analytics poll, which has Edwards at 45 percent, Rispone at 20 and Abraham at 19, there’s an indication Rispone and Edwards have both peaked and they’re the candidates doing all the attacking (Edwards’ attacks being routed through Gumbo PAC). Doubling up on the incessant campaign spots already monopolizing televisions in Louisiana isn’t really likely to work at this point.

Second, which we think is more likely, is that $1.5 million coming down from DC is an admission that the race will go to a November runoff, as Edwards isn’t going to get to 50 percent plus one on Saturday night. While the Democrats did have something of a surge on the final day of early voting, which pushed the percentage of black voters in the electorate so far from 23.8 percent to 25.2 percent and widened, slightly, the Democrats’ margin of early voters over the Republicans’ from 43.2-42.5 out to 43.4-41.5, the early voting numbers were still a major indication Republicans are a lot more fired up about this election than they were four years ago. And it should be understood that in the gubernatorial primary four years ago some 59 percent of the vote went to Republican candidates.

All that money going to Gumbo PAC means what has been one of the dirtiest political campaigns in modern Louisiana history will only get dirtier, as Gumbo PAC’s ads have been the sleaziest and most dishonest of any in this campaign. That, and the national Democrat cash filling their coffers, means whichever Republican makes the runoff with Edwards had better be prepared for rivers of political sludge headed their way. But like the old saying goes, you only catch flak when you’re over the target – and if the Democrats really though the election was in the bag they wouldn’t have pumped all that money into Gumbo PAC’s pot.

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