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MEMO: Gov. Edwards has clearest path to victory

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To: Interested Parties
From: Marshall Cohen, DGA Political Director
Date: October 11, 2019
Re: Gov. Edwards has clearest path to victory
Gov. John Bel Edwards is well-positioned to win tomorrow or in the runoff next month. Despite more than $7 million in negative ads spent against him, Edwards maintains high job approval and favorability ratings with Louisianans. Voters know Gov. Edwards, the job he’s done bringing the state back from the brink, and they want to keep the state moving forward.
On the Republican side, both Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone are wounded by their attacks on each other and their support of former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
This leaves Republicans staring down a stunning loss either Saturday or next month and they’ve hit the panic button. And they should be—-Gov. Edwards is in a strong position to win.
Edwards’ strong personal brand, record of success, and aggressive campaigning have put him in position to win outright on Saturday. He has been the only candidate delivering a message that resonates with swing voters, combined with a historic GOTV campaign can put him over the top
In a poll released this week in potential runoff matchups, Edwards is over 50 regardless of which Republican candidate advances. Regardless if he wins or not on Saturday, recent polling shows Gov. John Bel Edwards holding a commanding lead in potential runoff matchups. And Verne Kennedy, a trusted Louisiana pollster, had Edwards at 51 percent, compared to 19 percent for Abraham and Rispone.
Louisianans’ support for Gov. Edwards’ record of bipartisan leadership shows in the governor’s job approval ratings as well. Despite millions in attack ads aired against him, Edwards has a job approval at 56 percent, a +16 net approval rating. The same poll found Abraham had a net -1 percent disapproval and Rispone only had a net +5 approval rating.  Feelings towards Abraham and Rispone are much cooler as both the candidates and their plans to take the state back to the failed Jindal era remain deeply unpopular.
Running On Jindal’s Policies While Trying To Run From Jindal
This race has been about how John Bel Edwards turned the page from Jindal’s failed policies. Gov. Edwards turned Jindal’s $2 billion deficit into a $500 million surplus. Louisianans don’t want to go back to the Jindal days that led the state into the ditch, which both Rispone and Abraham support.
If this race goes to a runoff, there will be a clear spotlight on either Rispone or Abraham to answer what funding they would cut. The answer is: Rispone and Abraham want to cut health care and education, which are both deeply unpopular with voters.
Infighting Hobbles Rispone And Abraham
Gov. Edwards’ Republican opponents’ constant infighting has done the GOP no favors in what was already an uphill battle. Instead of trying to weaken Edwards’ base of support, Abraham and Rispone have spent substantial campaign funds waging war against each other on TV, online, and in the mail. In this final week alone, Eddie Rispone aired three attack ads tearing Rep. Ralph Abraham down, along with a digital and mail blitz. Abraham also broke his promise not to go negative on Rispone, calling him “desperate” and saying he was lying. Both Republicans spent the last two debates slamming each other. If the election moves to a runoff, whichever Republican candidate manages to limp though will face a divided and bitter Republican base.
Both Republicans Have A Difficult Path In The Runoff
If Rispone advances to the runoff, he’s going to have to run from his record as a businessman where Rispone has taken millions in government handouts and was even sued for failing to pay his employees. Voters will learn more about how Rispone says one thing in an election and another as a businessman—and they aren’t going to like what they hear.
Ralph Abraham just keeps getting caught in more lies. He was caught reneging on a promise to donate his congressional salary to sick children and wounded veterans. And though he’s missed more votes in Congress than any other member, his fundraising numbers are still paltry. If Abraham makes the runoff, voters aren’t going to like his record of skipping work and lying about charitable donations. And he’s going to need a serious cash infusion without evidence he can make it happen.
And That’s Why Republicans Are Panicking  
From the start, this race didn’t go how Republicans planned. Sen. John Kennedy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise both passed on the race. After Rispone and Abraham entered the race, the RGA Executive Director said, “We’ll see who else gets in.” They are stuck with C-list candidates and now they are panicking, trying to pull out all the stops when it’s too little too late.
Stephanie Grace, a columnist for The Advocate, noted Abraham is pulling a desperate stunt reeking “of last-minute desperation.” The Hayride, a conservative blog, called Rispone’s campaign “out of touch, tone deaf and underachieving.” Dan Fagan, a conservative columnist for The Advocate, even said “it looks like Gov. John Bel Edwards will get a second term.”
Republican party leaders warned Abraham and Rispone not to go after each other to no avail. Now their divisions “have left them staring down the prospect of another stunning loss.”
With the jungle primary tomorrow, the Republican party has hit the panic button. Their panic is generating chaos, not enthusiasm, at a time when both Republicans desperately need the latter.
Whatever happens, it’s clear Gov. Edwards has earned another four years and will keep moving Louisiana forward.