No, it’s not because I’ve done a poll – even though I am a pollster. This has more to do with analytics of campaign strategy and behavior: when a candidate is running TV ads grasping at “anything” to make an issue of it, even if it’s not accurate. That’s a sure sign of trouble.
Point in case, Gov. John Bel Edwards is running a commercial to try and shame Eddie Rispone. Yeah, shame, as if that ever works in a state where we’ve become accustom to that. What’s this “shameful” thing Rispone did? Eddie had the nerve to question Edwards’ military service. Well, it actually wasn’t his military service. What Rispone said was he thinks Edwards (as governor) has brought discredit to West Point, based on the false things Edwards has said during his time in office and the current campaign, which would fall considerably short of the admonitions about lying, cheating and stealing in that institution’s Honor Code. So what Rispone is really referring to is how far Edwards’ values have strayed since attending the U.S. Military Academy – a legitimate comment.
So let me get this straight: Edwards is attacking Rispone as someone we just can’t trust as governor because Rispone is exercising his First Amendment right to be critical of Edwards? “That” is a eye-catching campaign message worth dishing out thousands for?
But wait, it gets better. A main point of the message is Rispone has the nerve to criticize Edwards and his West Point roommate and buddy (Murray Starkel) who got a sweetheart deal given to him potentially (and likely) worth millions, even though Starkel’s company at the time had no employees (other than himself) and no clients or real business office.
Edwards says in this TV ad “that’s not true” and because the ad for Rispone was false that it had to be taken down from the airwaves. Well, there are two things wrong with the “Edwards” commercial. First, everything in the pro-Rispone ad criticizing Edwards and his pal Starkel is absolute fact. It’s been in the news. Second (and here comes the funny part), the very next commercial that airs (after this Edwards ad attacking Rispone) is the very anti-Edwards TV ad about him giving his buddy Starkel the sweetheart deal!
I’m thinking “wait a second, I thought Edwards just got through saying in his ad that this commercial had to be pulled” from the airwaves? I literally laughed out loud – something I don’t get to do too often as a political consultant. I can’t help but wonder how many thousands of people were also laughing after seeing the two ads run one after the other. This is what we call in campaigning “catching the other guy in a fat lie.”
Folks, if this is the best message Edwards can say in a TV ad, he’s in trouble – or at least he thinks he is. Otherwise he wouldn’t run such a weak message ad like that, especially while the other ad for Rispone is still airing.
Still, this doesn’t mean Edwards can’t win. He’s depending on droves of ignorant voters, many of them among the black community which has suffered terribly over the last four years while blacks elsewhere in America have done exceptionally well in the Trump economy, going to the polls to pull the lever for him simply because as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith says “he’s the Democrat in the race.” Oh, and that’s Smith’s description of black voters as being ignorant, not mine. And who am I to disagree with an African-American sports commentator?
I expect this race to get more laughable by November 16th – thanks to the Edwards campaign. Try to stay sane.
John Scurich is a New Orleans-based pollster and political consultant.