Political gravity is an electoral force that embodies the ingrained voting tendencies of an area or district.
Defying political gravity is a rare phenomenon caused by an extraordinary set of circumstances.
For example, when Republican Joseph Cao unseated Democratic Congressman Bill Jefferson in 2008, the Vietnamese-American defied political gravity by winning an overwhelmingly Democratic and majority black district.
Cao was helped by the fact Jefferson was on his way to prison.
Two years later, Cao crashed back down to Earth when he faced Cedric Richmond.
Democrat State Representative John Bel Edwards had executed a similar, though far less drastic, upset in Republican Louisiana when he defeated GOP US Senator David Vitter in the runoff four years ago for governor.
No need to cover how that played out.
The conventional wisdom in the press was that Edwards was an all but certain one-termer though I was less cynical because the office he held was powerful, the state media was sympathetic to him and his party, Edwards was a skilled politician who crafted an effective narrative, and the Republicans lacked a clear candidate.
And as one prominent Republican after another punted, it appeared that Edwards was a near mortal lock for a second term despite an unfavorable partisan climate as the same electorate that had voted Democrat for governor had also voted Republican up and down the rest of the statewide ballot and sent to the legislature Republican (albeit nominal) majorities in each chamber.
And while Congressman Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone are both accomplished men, they lacked the prominence of the other state Republicans who took a pass on the race.
And then the White House opted to take a break of the sundry allegations being pushed by a Democratic House bingeing on impeachment porn to crank up the political gravity in a state President Trump won by a big margin, which likely provided the decisive pull to keep Governor Edwards three percentage points and change south of 50%+1.
Three points doesn’t seem like a lot to make up but it could be a political bridge too far as national political hysteria ginned up by the governor’s fellow Democrats have come at a most inconvenient time for JBE.
If Edwards becomes the first sitting Louisiana governor to win a runoff since a second-consecutive term was allowed during the McKeithen Administration in the 1960’s, it won’t be by a landslide as President Trump will be looking to leave DC and claim the last electoral victory on the ballot prior to the kickoff of the presidential primaries.
While Edwards is struggling with an enthusiasm gap, Rispone is confronted with the challenge of winning over practically the entire vote haul of Dr. Abraham, a man Rispone’s campaign team carpet bombed in negative ads for weeks.
While Dr. Abraham quickly did his Republican duty, Rispone will need more than an official blessing and unity tweets by Trump to win over 90% of a vote group that is pretty sore about the rough treatment their candidate received from a fellow Republican.
And then there’s the Republican suburbs around New Orleans that voted heavily for Trump in 2016 yet gave the Democratic incumbent governor majorities in Jefferson and St Bernard.
Custom-built messaging must be produced to flip those numbers. Canned generic “vote Republican” ads won’t cut it. And winning Jefferson Parish is an essential component to any Republican statewide election.
A serious retooling of Rispone’s messaging is a must considering he outspent Abraham 5 to 1 yet only slipped past the congressman by a few points. The results indicate it was the quantity of the ad buys and not the quality of the actual messaging that landed Rispone a second place finish in the primary though the Baton Rouge contractor won’t enjoy a similar advantage against the governor and his super PAC.
What Rispone and his team does in the next 72 hours will set the course for a majority vote in next month’s runoff – or determine how close he came before succumbing to Edwards and the power of incumbency.
Trump rallies can nudge Rispone a few extra points but it’s on the candidate to close most of the gap.
Political gravity is working for Rispone and against Edwards though the governor doesn’t need to fly too much higher to get to a majority.