Keep in mind, I generally believe there is hardly any chance for a Republican to win in Louisiana, statewide, but for a fluke election, such as the one we saw in which John Bel Edwards bested David Vitter, who had lost favor among many of his Republican supporters, for a variety of reasons. So, taking the position that the state just doesn’t care about this race and won’t vote, but those in Orleans Parish, who might go to the polls due to a New Orleans Mayor’s Race contest, will turn out, the logical conclusion would be that Edwards might somehow prevail as the Republicans and white voters snoozed.
Obviously, I have not been alone in hearing the siren call. Stephanie Grace of the Advocate and Jeff Crouere, radio talk show host and columnist for Bayoubuzz have expressed the same beliefs.
On Friday, Crouere in a short interview, said, “
“It's going to be very interesting because in many places, Steve, this is the only thing on the ballot and there's going to be an incredibly low turnout, there's very little interest in the race, little knowledge about it. People don't seem to be plugged in. So if I were John Schroeder, I would at least be worried because he needs a decent turnout for him to be comfortable about winning on the 18th.
SABLUDOWSKY: Do you think he has any concern, I mean, the idea that a Republican losing a Statewide election is almost Impossible two, in my opinion, to imagine at this point.
CROUERE: Well, if New Orleans has a bigger turnout than we expect, the estimates I'm hearing are 30% 31, 32% maybe more roughly what I've been hearing, Then you have the possibility that this thing could be getting even closer because there would be a differential of maybe 30 points between New Orleans turn out and what we can see statewide.
So I think that's what has John Schroeder a little bit concerned. I think he's really trying to hit his base. He's coming on my program, he's going to be doing various talk shows--just to remind people that he needs to get out the vote on the 18th.
Early voting is obviously part of the strategy, so that's starting. But this would be an incredibly amazing result because Derek Edwards didn't even get the endorsement until recently of the Democratic party. That has so little faith in him that they didn't endorse him until recently.
SABLUDOWSKY: Right right, just last week, so I'm looking at a quote from The Advocate today Where Tom Schedler, the Secretary of State, calculates that between 10 and 12 percent of Louisiana voters appears to be likely to vote which would be down from 12.5% from early October election
CROUERE: Well you have to assume that includes the higher turnout in Orleans. I assume the statewide number-- so if you take Orleans out of the election, it means that the Statewide turnout for Louisiana would be even lower
A Louisiana pollster, John Couvillon of JMC Polling and Analytics appear to be putting very cold water on the notion that Edwards could win by a squeaker. Not that he is claiming the Couvillon can’t lose, but, that based upon the numbers, the chances are seemingly very iffy. Why such low probability? Here is a relevant portion from his newsletter that essentially appears to be claiming that whites play such a commanding role in Louisiana politics and that even with horrible turnouts statewide, the numbers just are simply not there for a shocking election results.
Apparantly, Couvillon is not impressed with our potential Hail Mary speculation.
Here are Couvillon’s comments from his weekend newsletter:
Minimal voter enthusiasm
When Louisiana held its US Senate runoff last December, it was noteworthy that only 29% turned out to participate in this contest (which also featured a Congressional race in Acadiana and municipal runoffs in East Baton Rouge Parish). And after two days of December early voting, 44,474 early voted. This group of early voters was 78-19% white/black and 44-42% Republican/Democrat – abysmal numbers for Democrats.
The October primary painted an even bleaker picture of how low turnout could get, with 14% statewide turnout, and after two days of early voting, 37,094 early voted. This group of early voters was 74-24% white/black and 50-40% Democrat/Republican – numbers that were somewhat more Democratic, at least when compared to the abysmal Democratic turnout numbers last December.
After two days of runoff early voting, the already minimal enthusiasm of primary voters has declined even further, with 26,036 early voters, who are 71-27% white/black and 48-41% Democrat/Republican. While this is somewhat more Democratic than the primary, it’s also important to note that Saturdays (in JMC’s experience) are a day of the week when Democrats typically maximize their early voting turnout. It will be interesting to see whether the initial Democratic trend can sustain itself throughout the week.
When comparing the early voting numbers to the primary after two days of early voting, two factors are impacting the numbers: mail in ballots and the New Orleans runoff.
Mail and New Orleans
An initial glance of early voting numbers shows a 30% decline in volume relative to two days of primary early voting. However, primary early voting numbers were “spiked” by a surge of mail in ballots that were all counted on the first day. To illustrate, 22% of those voting early in last December’s runoff chose a mail in ballot. In the primary, that number jumped to 28%, and it was 52% after two days of early voting). This time, the mail in ballot volume was down 56% relative to the primary, while in person early voting (which is the majority of those who vote before Election Day) was only down 2%. In other words, while runoff early voting turnout is down, it’s JMC’s belief that the volume of in person early voting (as opposed to mail in volume) is at this point in the process a more accurate barometer of runoff early voting (and ultimately, Election Day) turnout.
New Orleans was different. While statewide early voting volume is 30% less statewide after two days of early voting, it was 1% higher in New Orleans than after two days of early voting, thus resulting in Orleans Parish representing 19% of the total statewide early vote (it was 13% after two days of early voting). This 19% figure is unusually high for a parish that typically makes up 8-10% of the statewide vote.
New Orleans has an elevated importance in this election cycle because of the timing of its municipal elections (several of which went to a runoff). Historically, its elections for Mayor, other parish wide offices, and the New Orleans City Council were held during Mardi Gras season. The timing of those elections was recently changed to the fall, and this is the first election cycle where New Orleans elections were held in conjunction with a statewide election cycle, thus giving this one parish a greater influence than it would normally have.
New Orleans impact
While Republican John Schroder (one of the two runoff contenders for the Treasurer’s race) is in a commanding position in the runoff (67% of primary voters chose a Republican candidate, while the lone Democrat (Derrick Edwards) received 31%), there has been speculation in journalistic and political circles about Edwards’ having a shot at winning the runoff, as only seven other parishes outside of Orleans have local offices on the ballot in addition to the Treasurer’s race.
Given that this speculation has been publicized in several different places without any quantitative verification of this assumption, JMC decided it was time to use actual numbers to prove or debunk this “groupthink.”
If we generously assumed that Orleans Parish sees a 20% increase in its turnout relative to the primary while the remaining 63 parishes see a 62% decrease in turnout, a combination of those two already improbable occurrences would only get Edwards up to 40% without a single vote from those who voted for Neil Riser or Angele Davis. Going even further into “what if” mode, a turnout increase of 50% in Orleans Parish and a 72% turnout decrease in the other 63 parishes would only get Edwards up to 45% without a single vote from those who voted for Neil Riser or Angele Davis. The only remotely possible combination that would get Edwards to 50% on November 18 would be a combination of all of the following: (1) 50% turnout increase in Orleans Parish, (2) 72% decrease in turnout in the other 63 parishes, (3) Edwards receiving 58% of the Riser vote in Orleans Parish (Riser invested heavily in that one, heavily Democratic parish in the primary), and (4) Edwards receiving 58% of the Davis vote in East Baton Rouge Parish (Davis had good name recognition there from her extensive state government experience, combined with the fact that East Baton Rouge Parish Republican voters are more moderate – by today’s standard).
JMC’s projections of early voting volume, overall turnout
Projecting turnout is a constantly moving target throughout early voting week, but since early voting has been in existence in Louisiana for a decade, JMC has established (and continuously refined) benchmarks that can be used to project early voting and/or final turnout.
In this case, JMC is of the initial opinion that runoff turnout will be somewhat less than it was in the primary. More specifically:
• Projected early/absentee vote: 85-115K (97K in the October primary)
• Projected turnout volume: 354-477K (424K in the October primary)
• Projected turnout percentage: 12-16% (14% in the October primary)
Why does early voting matter? When the Legislature essentially established “no fault” early voting a decade ago, you now have a noticeable constituency of people who prefer the convenience of early voting, and this constituency has for five times in a row (the 2015 primary, 2015 runoff, 2016 Presidential elections, December 2016 runoff, and October 2017 primary) exceeded 20% – it was 24% in the October primary. A politician would be foolish to ignore this many “up front” voters, especially in a closely contested race. Also, too, early voting numbers are the first ones that are typically reported after polls have closed at 8 PM.
So, maybe it's too early and downright remote to be screaming Chicken Little in prognosticating this election.
Perhaps. Election Day is now less than two weeks away.
Although there appears way too little interest, maybe turning red state blue will take so much more black and so less white for the Schroder sky to fall.
We will wait and see.